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Deadly accidents strike Mexico, Saudi Arabia

by Alexander H. Tullo
April 25, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 17

It was a disastrous week for the global petrochemical industry as two major chemical complexes—one in Mexico and another in Saudi Arabia—both suffered deadly industrial accidents. On April 20, an explosion rocked a vinyl chloride plant in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico, belonging to Mexichem and the state oil company Pemex. The explosion killed 13 workers and injured 136, 48 of whom have already been released from the hospital, according to the companies. Some 2,000 inhabitants of the surrounding area were temporarily evacuated. The cause of the accident, which is at a site where the partners recently conducted a $200 million expansion, is under investigation. In Saudi Arabia, a fire on April 16 killed 12 workers and injured 11 at the Saudi Basic Industries Corp. affiliate Jubail United Petrochemical in Jubail. Employees were carrying out routine maintenance and changing catalysts at the site’s ethylene glycol plant when the accident occurred, the company says. The dead and injured succumbed to smoke from the reactor. All but one of the injured workers were subsequently discharged. Operations at the site—which also makes other chemicals—were not affected, the company says.


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