Mexico City blast at state oil firm Pemex kills 25

The BBC's Will Grant said the blast happened "at the worst possible moment"

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The number of people killed by a blast in Mexico City at the headquarters of the state oil company, Pemex, has risen to 25, the interior minister has said.

At least 100 people were injured and an unknown number are trapped in rubble at the base of the 54-storey tower. The search for survivors continues.

The cause of the blast is under investigation, Pemex says.

Last September, 30 people died in an explosion at a Pemex gas plant in northern Mexico.

Anxious relatives

Thursday's explosion in the lower floors of the building happened as shifts were changing in the afternoon, making the area particularly crowded.

Television pictures showed debris from the blast spread out on to the street in front of the building, and Red Cross ambulances on the scene attending to the injured.

File photo of the Pemex Executive Tower in Mexico City The 54-floor Pemex building is 214m (702 ft) tall

Hundreds of rescuers helped by dogs are searching the building for around 30 people thought to be trapped inside.

Police have cordoned off the streets around the building, which is located in a busy commercial area of Mexico City.

Pemex says its operations will continue to run normally - and commercial and financial obligations will continue to be met - despite the blast.

The company's chief executive, Emilio Lozoya Austin, cut short a business trip to Asia and was on his way back to Mexico, a Pemex statement said.

Relatives of employees have gathered outside the building in search of information about their loved ones, local media report. Some are said to have tried to reach employees on their mobile phones but have had no reply.

"The place shook, we lost power and suddenly there was debris everywhere. Colleagues were helping us out of the building," eyewitness Cristian Obele said.

"We were talking and all of sudden we heard an explosion with white smoke and glass falling from the windows," another witness said.

"People started running from the building covered in dust. A lot of pieces were flying."

At the scene

The Pemex building in the north of Mexico City is surrounded by large numbers of federal police and paramedics. Sniffer dogs are being used to look for people trapped under the rubble.

Mexico City is used to earthquakes, and the emergency services seem well prepared for this type of disaster.

The skyscraper withstood the blast too, with most of the damage confined to the ground and first floors. But night has set in now in the Mexican capital, further complicating the search.

Some family members of missing workers are gathered outside the Pemex building for news of their loved ones, while others have travelled directly to the hospitals.

The authorities and paramedic teams are releasing information at regular intervals but the exact cause of the blast may still take some time to be confirmed. This is now by far the worst explosion in Mexico City for almost 30 years.

Images of the blast posted on Twitter revealed large clouds of smoke billowing from the building. TV footage showed people being transported from the scene by helicopters.

President Enrique Pena Nieto and Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera headed to the scene of the blast.

Mr Pena said Pemex rescue and security teams were working alongside city authorities to help the injured.

"I am deeply sorry for the deaths of our fellow workers at Pemex. My condolences to their relatives," Mr Pena said on Twitter.

"At the moment, the priority is to help the injured and protect the physical safety of those who work there."

The president said he has ordered an investigation into the causes of the blast.

Earlier on Thursday, Pemex had reported problems with the electricity in the building in a message on Twitter.

It later confirmed that an explosion had taken place "in the B2 building of the administrative centre".

Plaster had fallen from the ceiling of the basement and the situation was "delicate", a spokesman for local emergency services was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying.

Pemex has experienced a number of fatal accidents in recent years.

Last September's deadly blast at a gas plant near the northern town of Reynosa is thought to have been caused by a build-up of gas.

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