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Pemex Workers Briefly Leave Offices on Gas Fears

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MEXICO CITY - Mexico's state-run oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, said Wednesday that some workers were briefly evacuated from an office building at its Mexico City headquarters after the smell of rotting food caused them to fear the presence of gas. The incident came six days after a gas explosion killed 37 people at the site and injured more than 120.

Pemex press officials said Wednesday's worries of leaking gas turned out to be a "false alarm," and that it didn't affect workers at Pemex's 48-story office tower.

Company spokesman Ignacio Duran said the smell was limited to a small area of an administrative building, and that some people decided to leave. He said workers last week had left behind many personal objects, when the entire corporate complex was evacuated after the Thursday blast, including food that had since decomposed.

Pemex workers had returned to the offices, except for the damaged building, earlier on Wednesday. Mexican officials have said an accumulation of gas caused the explosion that damaged the lower floors of the B2 administrative building, raining debris down on workers and visitors.

Experts haven't determined the source of the gas, officials said, but did say it was safe for workers to return to the other buildings Wednesday. The B2 building remains closed.

Benjamin Ruiz Loyola, a chemist at Mexico City's National University and a member of the forensics team looking into the blast, said in a radio interview on Tuesday that the source of the natural gas in the basement of the B2 building could have come from a pipeline under the building, or from rotting organic matter.

"The source is what isn't clear," Mr. Ruiz told Radio Formula.

He also said there were no indications at all of an explosive device, which would have clearly left behind signs of the explosion coming from a concentrated source, and not a diffuse source, like a gas cloud. He said the gas explosion caused the cement floors of the building to be pushed upwards, and then to crash down.

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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