Why Did a Skyscraper Just Blow Up in Mexico City?

At least 14 people are dead; scores more are still buried beneath the rubble.

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Reuters

Fourteen people are dead, up to 100 injured and another 30 remain trapped beneath the rubble, after an explosion tore through the Mexico City headquarters of the state-owned Pemex oil company. The blast originated in the basement of a 12-story administrative building next to the company's iconic 52-story tower and managed to take out at least two floors. "There was a very loud roar," said a secretary who was on the second floor. "It was very ugly." And it's not getting any prettier as emergency workers hustle to dig out the trapped victims. Police brought in four helicopters to carry away the injured and the dead, while a dozen tow trucks cleared parked cars from the area to make room for rescuers. 

So far, the cause of the blast remains a mystery. Some media outlets are reporting that it was faulty machinery inthe building's basement, while others say it was a gas leak. Though the company has released a statement, Pemex officials remain mum on the matter, and that makes sense. They're probably really busy and also want to make sure they're right when they explain the accident. Some media reports suggest that it was some faulty machinery that caused the blast, perhaps an air condition malfunction. Others say it was a gas leak. Some have already pointed out the similarities between this blast and the one that hit the World Trade Center in 1993. But suffice it to say that nobody knows what caused the explosion, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is imploring people not to speculate.

Whatever caused the blast, Pemex is going to come out of this one looking pretty bad. New York Times reporters Damien Cave and Karla Zabludovsky explain from Mexico City, "The blast -- in a highly protected but decaying office complex -- comes in the middle of a heated debate over the future of Pemex, a national institution and a corporate behemoth that has been plagued by declining production, theft and an abysmal safety record that includes a major pipeline explosion almost every year, like the one in September that killed 30 workers." However, accidents typically happen at refineries or the pipeline, as was the case near the Texas border last September. If Pemex can't even keep its office buildings in one piece, things must be really bad.

This post originally appeared on The Atlantic Wire.

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