The death toll from a petrochemical plant explosion in southeastern Mexico has risen to 24, state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos reported late Thursday. Pemex raised the toll from the 13 fatalities previously known and also said 19 people remained hospitalized, with 13 of them in serious condition. Earlier in the day, desperate relatives gathered outside the plant in the industrial port city of Coatzacoalcos, on Mexico's southern Gulf coast, hoping for news about loved ones still unaccounted for. About 30 families massed at a plant entrance road, where a sharp chemical smell still hung in the air about a mile from where the explosion occurred Wednesday afternoon, the AP reports. Shoving broke out as people unsuccessfully tried to force their way into the installation.
The blast forced evacuations of nearby areas as it sent a toxin-filled cloud billowing into the air and injuring more than 100 workers. Jose Antonio Gonzalez Anaya, Pemex's director, told Radio Formula that the explosion was caused by a leak of as-yet unknown origin. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto also toured the facility Thursday. A spokesman for a family searching for a lost relative vowed that the families would demand a full account of what happened. "To the president, to the state governor, to the head of Pemex, we will not allow any more cover-ups like have happened with previous accidents," he said.