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Natural gas suspected in Mexico oil company blast

MEXICO CITY — A water-heating system may have leaked natural gas into a tunnel beneath the headquarters of Mexico’s national oil company for more than seven months before it was accidentally detonated by a maintenance crew’s lighting system, officials said Tuesday, adding fresh detail to the narrative of the petroleum giant’s worst disaster in a decade.

Mexico’s attorney general said Monday night that a buildup of an unspecified gas was responsible for the explosion that collapsed three floors of the administrative building in Petroleos Mexicanos’ Mexico City headquarters complex, killing 37 people. He indicated the gas could have been either natural gas, which is used to fuel water boilers, or methane.

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Assistant Attorney General Alfredo Castillo told reporters Tuesday morning that the likeliest source of the gas was a tunnel that ran beneath the devastated building and carried hot water from a natural-gas heating plant to the ­54-story central tower of the complex.

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