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I'm posting this more as a overnight placeholder than comprehensive diary, and I encourage others (particularly Spanish-speaking) to provide local updates as the story fills out.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/... (via Associated Press)

MEXICO CITY — An explosion at the office headquarters of Mexico's state-owned oil company killed 14 people and injured 100 on Thursday as it heavily damaged three floors of a building, sending hundreds into the streets and a large plume of smoke over Mexico City's skyline.

Another 30 people were reported trapped in the debris late Thursday, as soldiers with rescue dogs, trucks with mounted lights and a Pemex crane were brought in to extract victims. The Interior Ministry said it was uncertain of the exact number of people trapped because many were outside having lunch when the explosion occurred about 3:45 p.m. local time in a basement parking garage next to the iconic, 51-story tower of Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, one of the tallest buildings in Mexico City.

* Updated to reflect LA Times death toll upward revision to at least 25.

As this happened over six hours ago, I have to confess surprise at the lack of information in the US press.  This was the headquarters of Mexico's state-owned oil company in the heart of Mexico City, not a refinery or petroleum facility explosion.  There is no question that Mexican officials, who at first said the evacuations were due to an electrical outage (even as the injured were leaving the buildings), are being very tight-lipped about cause.  Nor can I find any comment from the White House or US officialdom.

If this was an act of terrorism -- and no one is going on the record saying so -- it would represent a devastating attack on the heart of the Mexican political power structure.

* Updating at 11pm pdt to pull back on conjecture of a deliberate attack, based on several accounts that the location of the blasts corresponds with the location of the building's power system.  But same sources say there is no determination of the cause at this time.  And thanks to jakedog42, resident boiler expert, who asserts in comments that a boiler explosion is perfectly capable of causing such a large and damaging explosion, even in 52-story skyscraper.

As it stands, this is an ongoing catastrophe that will extend into the day tomorrow, and will bear close watching.  Thanks to any Kossacks who can fill in details over the next 12 hours, particularly any Mexican Kossacks who can chime in with local information.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (25+ / 0-)

    "And now we know that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob." -- FDR

    by Mogolori on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 09:45:48 PM PST

  •  It's a front page story now on MSNBC (8+ / 0-)

    so it's getting some traction in the US press

    http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/...

    What's wrong with America? I'll tell you. Everything Romney said was pre-chewed wads of cud from Republicans from the last 30 years and yet he managed thru a combination of racism and selling the (false) hope of riches to get 47% of the national vote.

    by ontheleftcoast on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 09:52:32 PM PST

    •  This semi-official statement on the cause (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mogolori, blueoasis, Lonely Texan

      of the blast

      A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity,said preliminary findings suggested the blast was caused by aged boiler exploding in a Pemex building next to the tower, Reuters reported.

      That would have to be a hell of a boiler explosion. Not impossible, mind you but this sounds more like a "We have no idea what the fuck happened"

      What's wrong with America? I'll tell you. Everything Romney said was pre-chewed wads of cud from Republicans from the last 30 years and yet he managed thru a combination of racism and selling the (false) hope of riches to get 47% of the national vote.

      by ontheleftcoast on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 09:54:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Still below the fold at NYT and WaPo a/o 955pdt. (4+ / 0-)

      LA Times just revised up death toll to 25.  I'll update in headline.

      "And now we know that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob." -- FDR

      by Mogolori on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 09:56:22 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I saw it shortly before you posted, from (3+ / 0-)

    the Atlantic Wire -

    http://www.theatlanticwire.com/...

    The article gives some good reasons why not to speculate on causes at this times, and I concur. They have too much to do right now with trying to help the injured and those still trapped, which obviously takes priority.

    Too Much Month Sale at Jan4insight Handmade Gallery! 15%off scarves, jewelry, journals, and cool prints to dress up your walls!

    by jan4insight on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 09:56:10 PM PST

  •  Boiler explosion (13+ / 0-)

    I spent most of my life as a boiler operator. Over 40 years.  Believe it. Boilers are able to cause this kind of damage.

    •  The article I linked also described the building (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mogolori, jakedog42, Lonely Texan

      and its infrastructure as "aging" so that would be a reasonable assumption.

      Too Much Month Sale at Jan4insight Handmade Gallery! 15%off scarves, jewelry, journals, and cool prints to dress up your walls!

      by jan4insight on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 10:05:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Appreciate the comment. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jakedog42, Lonely Texan

      "And now we know that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob." -- FDR

      by Mogolori on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 10:08:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  And incinerators. (0+ / 0-)

      Particularly if either is gas-fired rather than oil fired.

      Pressure vessels explode, pipes get sheared and lines ignite, in the blink of an eye.

      Also, some types of transformers are prone to explosion since under certain circumstances, hydrogen gas can be generated. For that reason, such transformers are usually oil-filled and include desiccant and gas absorption canisters to keep the oil dry to prevent out gassing. Could be the case here if the explosion came from an electrical system.

      But, um, maintenance? *

      * The huge oil filled transformers in the plant where I work get the desiccant changed weekly. It works. And they have their own, isolated, reinforced concrete building.

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 04:48:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  From Excelsior (5+ / 0-)
    22:55 Incia conferencia del secretario de Gobernación, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong

    El funcionario detalló que hasta el momento se tiene confirmada la muerte de 25 personas: 17 mujeres y ocho hombres. Hay 101 heridos, de los cuales 46 permanecen en atención médica y el resto ya fueron dados de alta. Los heridos permanecen en hospitales.

    Secretary of the Interior Miguel Angel Osorio Chong's news conference has begun.

    The official reported that as of now, the deaths of 25 people, 17 women and eight men, have been confirmed.  There are 101 injured, of whom 46 are receiving medical treatment and the rest were discharged.  The injured remain in the hospital.  

    Link to Excelsior

    "Politics should be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage." -- Lucille Ball

    by Yamaneko2 on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 10:02:31 PM PST

  •  I heard about this on NPR at approx. 5:45pm PST (4+ / 0-)

    Why so late elsewhere?

    I must be dreaming...

    by murphy on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 10:05:56 PM PST

  •  While this is a tragic event, everyone who is (4+ / 0-)

    jumping to conclusions about terrorist bombings is just falling for the "panic button" mode of responding to bad news with terror, they trying to clean their shorts later.

    There are many reports and speculation, but far from being "tight-lipped" and everyone fleeing the area, etc, etc, the most common cause being attributed at this point is a gas-powered boiler for the building's (or next door building's) heating system.

    Mexico City is at fairly high altitude. It is currently fairly cold there, being winter and all. Gas boilers have been known to explode.  

    Terrorism. Deliberate attack. Devastating attack.  All pretty irresponsible words when someone doesn't know what happened.

    "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

    by YucatanMan on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 11:16:56 PM PST

    •  Just peeled it back. (0+ / 0-)

      Massive explosions in the basements of skyscrapers are hard to forget, and the target is politically connected in the biggest of ways, both domestically and internationally.  Cause is on the minds of a lot of people.

      "And now we know that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob." -- FDR

      by Mogolori on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 11:25:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Unlike the USA, Mexico is not reviled worldwide (0+ / 0-)

        for their dastardly foreign policies.

        According to Spanish language reports, it wasn't even the PEMEX tower, but a related building next door where the explosion occurred.  

        Immediately assuming that anything bad that happens is caused by "terrorists" is just giving faceless and often non-existent "enemies" a lot of extra credit.

        First responders reported a strong smell of gas when entering the building and the explosion is known to have occurred in the area of the HVAC system.

        Mexico City also has a lot of faults, settling buildings and gas leaks in general due to the geology of a megacity sitting in an old lake bed.  In Mexico itself, upon hearing of the explosion, many people thought:

        1) PEMEX has such a terrible safety record in so many ways; and,
        2) Wonder if it was a gas leak?

        A gas-powered boiler for a 50 story building could cause a lot of damage. But terrorists?  Not a first guess.

        "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

        by YucatanMan on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 11:40:16 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  it would indeed be weird for foreign terrorists (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MRobDC

          to hit pemex, but somewhat less unbelievable for unspecified domestic power players to have done something like this, for motives involving pemex or its managers in some unspecified way. i agree that it's way too soon to even speculate, given the information we have now, and that a boiler explosion is quite plausible.

          •  Watch (0+ / 0-)

            Some Christo-fascist is going to come out saying this was a punishment for Mexico, DF performing gay marriages...

            But you're right, it was probably an old boiler in an old building in a very crowded city.

        •  That would be my guess as well (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jan4insight, YucatanMan

          I was in Guadalajara shortly after Pemex managed to blow up all the downtown sewer system by dumping thousand of liters of gas into them. My first thought was their lousy safety record.

          My second is Mexico in general is not nearly as safety oriented as we are here. This can be good in some ways but it also can be really really bad whe things actually do go wrong.

          It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich according to what he is not what he has -Henry Ward Beecher

          by PSWaterspirit on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 08:13:37 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  And, the police are on duty outside, the (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lonely Texan, wu ming, jan4insight

      fire-fighters are on duty outside, the rescue workers are crawling through collapsed tunnels and access points, looking for anyone who might be trapped in the two collapsed floors (reports vary, but basically, the basement, first floor and mezzanine are believed involved, reportedly in the building next to the PEMEX tower.)

      "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

      by YucatanMan on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 11:43:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hi YucatanMan (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        YucatanMan

        Where did you find the information about it being the building next door, please?  All I can find in the Spanish speaking press is that there has been an explosion in the Torre Pemex.

        •  Nevermind. I see in The Atlantic Wire (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jan4insight, YucatanMan

          that it was their 12 story office building adjacent to the tower.

        •  Sorry I wasn't awake when you asked, but (0+ / 0-)

          I see you found it.  

          There are various reports, and as in most cases, earliest reports were all over the map.  

          I guess I 'm just a bit touchy over the instant reaction most Americans, including our fellow Democrats, liberals and progressives, have toward the default thought "Terrorists!"

          What that shows, to me, is that the Bush/Cheney cabal has far too thoroughly indoctrinated everyone into security-state / surveillance-state acceptance.

          "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

          by YucatanMan on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 10:34:51 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  A couple of videos (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lonely Texan, koNko, OMwordTHRUdaFOG


    The second one had the cooperation of my union. The International Union of Operating Engineers.

    I've operated many Cleaver-Brooks Boilers like the one shown in the video.

  •  I'm in Mexico City (4+ / 0-)

    and there isn't really any more information available yet than what you have here.

    Infrastructure maintenance is definitely an issue here, although it isn't cold enough here to need heat, many skyscrapers have a ventilation system.  (I don't know the technical details, I just happen to work in several MC office buildings and have noticed there is air blowing through vents, but not particularly warm or cold air.  Temperatures outside during the day are room temperature.)

    Here are some photos:

    Torre Pemex

  •  My first reaction when I heard this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wu ming

    was, "You shouldn't store the oil and gas at your headquarters." Seriously. I thought it was an oil refinery explosion. Then I read more and realized that didn't make sense.

    “If you misspell some words, it’s not plagiarism.” – Some Writer

    by Dbug on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 11:53:51 PM PST

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