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Pemex Is Blamed for The Sewer Explosion

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MEXICO’S ATTORNEY GENERAL ISSUED A REPORT blaming the state-owned oil giant Pemex for the explosion last month that destroyed 20 blocks of downtown Guadalajara. Police indicted four Pemex executives, the mayor of Guadalajara and other officials and charged them with negligent homicide in connection with the blast, which killed 194 people. There had been many complaints about gas fumes, the report says, and on April 21 Guadalajara officials measured “up to 100% explosiveness” in the city’s sewers. They told residents there was no reason to leave. The next day at least nine major explosions blew a swath of destruction through Mexico’s second largest city. Pemex has offered $30 million to “mitigate the disgrace” of the estimated $300 million damage caused by the blast.

This is not the first time government negligence has caused a blowup in Guadalajara’s sewer. A similar leak of chemicals in 1983 sent trees and cars flying in a 10-block area and injured 48 people. There have been other explosions in the country since 1978, including a series of gas explosions on the outskirts of Mexico City in 1984 that killed at least 400 people. Fearing a repeat of the Guadalajara episode, last week officials evacuated sections of Mexico City and Saltillo after finding gas leaks there. The angry public mood in Mexico may give President Carlos Salinas de Gortari a chance to privatize Pemex, one of the last holdouts against his campaign to sell state-run industries.

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