UPDATE 6-Three dead, dozens injured in blast at chemical plant in Mexico
(Updates injured count, adds Pemex comment)
MEXICO CITY, April 20 (Reuters) - A massive explosion rocked a major petrochemical facility of Mexican national oil company Pemex in the Gulf state of Veracruz on Wednesday, killing at least three people, injuring dozens more, and pumping a cloud of noxious chemicals into the sky.
Luis Felipe Puente, head of federal emergency services, told Reuters that three people had died in the blast. Pemex confirmed that three of its workers had died, and said another 136 were injured, of which 88 were still in the hospital.
The firm said the explosion, which sent a huge, dark plume of smoke billowing upwards, occurred just after 3 p.m. (2000 GMT) at the facility's chlorinate 3 plant near the port of Coatzacoalcos, one of the company's top oil export hubs.
Local emergency officials said hundreds of people had been evacuated from the site. Television footage showed an initial burst of flames followed by a tower of thick smoke. A company official said local oil exports were unaffected.
What caused the blast was unclear, but Pemex initially warned local residents to keep away from the site due to what it described as a dissipating cloud of toxic fumes. TV footage showed rain clouds gathering above the plant as evening fell.
"The current situation at the plant... is under control and there is no risk to the population," Pemex said later in the evening on its official Twitter account.
Pemex Chief Executive Jose Antonio Gonzalez traveled to Coatzacoalcos late on Wednesday to oversee the response.
Petroquimica Mexicana de Vinilo, or PMV, a vinyl petrochemical plant that is a joint venture between Pemex's petrochemical unit and Mexican plastic pipe maker Mexichem was the facility hit by the blast. Continuación...