A buildup of gas in the basement provoked the explosion that ripped through four floors of Mexico’s state-owned oil company, killing 37 people and injuring more than 100. That’s the latest assessment of the cause of last Thursday’s tragedy at the 52-story tower housing the corporate offices of Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, according to Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam. A spark caused by maintenance workers ignited the gas, the source of which is not yet known, he said.
The explosion comes as Mexico gears up for a heated battle over the fate of Pemex, created when President Lázaro Cárdenas expropriated foreign oil companies and nationalized the industry in 1938. The company remains a powerful symbol of sovereignty, despite also possessing a reputation for corruption and graft.