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Petrochemical plant blast kills 3, injures dozens in Mexico

MEXICO CITY – An explosion ripped through a petrochemical plant on the southern coast of the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, killing three people, injuring more than 100 and sending a toxin-filled cloud into the air, officials said.

State oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, said 136 workers were hurt and three died in the midafternoon blast in the industrial port city of Coatzacoalcos. Eighty-eight of the injured remained hospitalized late Wednesday night.

Veracruz state Gov. Javier Duarte also told Radio Formula that there were three fatalities.

The blast was felt as far as 6 miles (10 kilometres) away, Duarte said, adding that more than 2,000 people were evacuated from the area as a precaution.

By early evening the fire was reported under control, but Pemex still urged people to stay away from the area. Officials cancelled Thursday’s classes at area schools.

“The cloud that emanated from the PMV plant in Coatzacoalcos is dissipating rapidly, which means it is losing its toxic effects,” the company said via its Twitter account.

It later said there was no longer any danger to people nearby.

The plant produces vinyl chloride, a hazardous industrial chemical that is used to make PVC pipes and for other purposes.

In early February, a fire killed a worker at the same facility.

Pemex said the explosion happened at 3:15 p.m. at the Clorados 3 plant of Petroquimica Mexicana de Vinilo. It said the plant is operated by another company, Mexichem, in partnership with Pemex.

The Veracruz state Health Department said in a statement that two patients were in grave condition after suffering burns to their air passages from toxic gases. Others were treated for injuries including minor burns, contusions and broken bones.

There have been a number of accidents in recent years at facilities owned by Pemex or where it operates. Also in February, the company reported two people killed and eight injured in a fire on an offshore platform in the Gulf of Mexico.