Mexico's Pemex says blast death toll hits 13, blames leak

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Mexico: three dead, over 130 injured in Pemex chemical blast

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -- An accidental leak caused a deadly petrochemical plant blast that has killed at least 13 people and the toll could rise, Mexican oil company Pemex said on Thursday, the latest in a series of fatal accidents to batter the company.

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Pemex CEO Jose Antonio Gonzalez Anaya, who traveled to the site of Wednesday's blast near the port of Coatzacoalcos, one of Pemex's top oil export hubs, told local television it was unclear what caused the leak that prompted the blast.

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Mexico's Pemex says blast death toll hits 13, blames leak
Military personnel take care of the first injured workers after an explosion at the Pajaritos PEMEX petrochemical plant in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz state, Mexico on April 20, 2016. A spectacular explosion at an oil facility in southeastern Mexico killed three and injured at least 30 workers Wednesday, state-run energy giant Pemex said. / AFP / SERGIO BALANDRANO (Photo credit should read SERGIO BALANDRANO/AFP/Getty Images)
View of smoke following an explosion at the petrochemical installation of Mexican Oil Company PEMEX in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz state, Mexico on April 20, 2016. At least 30 employees were injured in the accident. / AFP / IGNACIO CARVAJAL (Photo credit should read IGNACIO CARVAJAL/AFP/Getty Images)
A worker receives help while being admitted to the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS) hospital, following an explosion at the Mexican Oil Company (PEMEX) petrochemistry plant in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz state, Mexico on April 20, 2016. At least 30 employees were injured in the accident. / AFP / IGNACIO CARVAJAL (Photo credit should read IGNACIO CARVAJAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives check the list of injured people at the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS) hospital, following an explosion at the Mexican Oil Company (PEMEX) petrochemical plant in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz state, Mexico on April 20, 2016. At least 30 employees were injured in the accident. / AFP / IGNACIO CARVAJAL (Photo credit should read IGNACIO CARVAJAL/AFP/Getty Images)
View of smoke following an explosion at the petrochemical installation of Mexican Oil Company PEMEX in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz state, Mexico on April 20, 2016. At least 30 employees were injured in the accident. / AFP / IGNACIO CARVAJAL (Photo credit should read IGNACIO CARVAJAL/AFP/Getty Images)
View of smoke following an explosion at the petrochemical installation of Mexican Oil Company PEMEX in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz state, Mexico on April 20, 2016. At least 30 employees were injured in the accident. / AFP / IGNACIO CARVAJAL (Photo credit should read IGNACIO CARVAJAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives wait outside the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS) hospital, following an explosion at the Mexican Oil Company (PEMEX) petrochemistry plant in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz state, Mexico on April 20, 2016. At least 30 employees were injured in the accident. / AFP / IGNACIO CARVAJAL (Photo credit should read IGNACIO CARVAJAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of missing workers of a nearby petrochemical plant of the state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos ( Pemex ) pray as they wait for news news about their loved ones outside the local hospital in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico, late Wednesday April 20, 2016. An explosion rocked the petrochemical plant on Mexico's southern Gulf coast, causing evacuations in the area as a fire billowed a toxin-filled cloud into the air. Officials said three workers died and more than 100 people were injured.(AP Photo/Felix Marquez)
A relative places a list of missing workers outside the local hospital in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico, late Wednesday April 20, 2016. An explosion rocked the nearby petrochemical plant of the state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos ( Pemex ) on Mexico's southern Gulf coast, causing evacuations in the area as a fire billowed a toxin-filled cloud into the air. Officials said three workers died and more than 100 people were injured.(AP Photo/Felix Marquez)
Relatives of missing workers of a nearby petrochemical plant of the state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos ( Pemex ) demand news about their loved ones outside the local hospital in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico, late Wednesday April 20, 2016. An explosion rocked the petrochemical plant on Mexico's southern Gulf coast, causing evacuations in the area as a fire billowed a toxin-filled cloud into the air. Officials said three workers died and more than 100 people were injured.(AP Photo/Felix Marquez)
Red Cross paramedics are seen outside the Mexican national oil company Pemex's Pajaritos petrochemical complex in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz state, Mexico, April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Angel Hernandez FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE
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The massive explosion at the facility's chlorinate 3 plant in the Gulf state of Veracruz also injured 136 people, 13 of those seriously.

"We know there was a leak, what we don't know is why, but everything points to an accident," Gonzalez Anaya said, revising the death toll up to 13.

He said there was an odor of ammonia in the area, and the company was investigating.

The blast occurred at a vinyl petrochemical plant that is a joint venture between Pemex's petrochemical unit and Mexican plastic pipe maker Mexichem.

Shares in Mexichem were trading nearly 5 percent lower in early trading on Thursday.

In February, a fire killed a worker at the same plant, which lies within Pemex's larger Pajaritos petrochemical complex and makes vinyl chloride monomer, also known as chloroethene, an industrial chemical used to produce plastic piping.

The explosion was the latest in a litany of safety disasters that have plagued the state oil giant, which is trying to stem the bleed of sliding output and slash costs as it creaks under the pressure of low crude prices.

In 2013, at least 37 people were killed by a blast at its Mexico City headquarters, and 26 people died in a fire at a Pemex natural gas facility in northern Mexico in September 2012.

A 2015 fire at its Abkatun Permanente platform in the oil-rich Bay of Campeche affected oil output and cost the company up to $780 million.

Pemex said last year it had reduced its annual accident rate in 2014 by more than 33 percent. But a Reuters investigation found that Pemex was reducing its accident rate by including hours worked by office staff in its calculations.

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