Death toll from huge explosion at Mexican chemical plant rises to 24

Plumes of smoke rise from the Pemex petrochemical plant in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico following an explosion Wednesday.
Huge explosion at Mexican chemical plant kills 3
00:46 - Source: CNN

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NEW: Twenty-four people killed in Mexican chemical plant explosion, officials say

Fire creates huge plumes of toxic smoke, prompting evacuations and school closures

It is the latest fatal incident at facilities linked to Mexican state oil company

CNN  — 

The death toll from a huge explosion at a Mexican petrochemical plant that forced the evacuation of surrounding neighborhoods has risen to 24, authorities said.

Wednesday’s explosion at the Petroquimica Mexicana de Vinilo facility in the southern state of Veracruz sent large plumes of dark smoke and toxic fumes across the region.

Javier Duarte, governor of the state of Veracruz, told CNN affiliate Televisa that the blast was felt about 10 kilometers (six miles) away. Emergency protocols were put in place, with surrounding municipalities evacuated and schools closed in others, officials said.

PMV is a joint venture between Mexican petrochemicals consortium Mexichem and state oil firm Pemex.

A government Twitter account showed photos of plant workers being evacuated from the facility in a convoy.

Pemex said on its Twitter account that the fire had been brought under control by early Wednesday evening and that the plume of toxic smoke was dissipating quickly.

Veracruz government spokesman Raul Gutierrez told CNN that emergency personnel were collaborating with Pemex to evaluate the extent of the damage from the explosion.

It’s not clear what caused the blast.

The blast was only the latest of several incidents reported at facilities linked to the Mexican state oil company in recent years.

In 2013, at least 37 people were killed in a blast at Pemex’s headquarters in Mexico City, and a year earlier, dozens were killed in a fire at a Pemex gas facility in the state of Tamaulipas.

CNN’s Richard Beltran contributed to this report.