Five Deadliest Onshore Oil & Gas Blasts - Part 5

Tim Haïdar

The San Juanico Disaster


Date: November 19, 1984

San Juan Ixhuatepec, Tlalnepantla de Baz, Mexico

Casualties: 500-600 fatalities, 5,000 to 7,000 injured

Estimated cost: Unclear

Details: At 5.30am a pipe leakage or rupture due to excess pressure, caused a build up of gas at this PEMEX-owned LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) storage and distribution centre 20 km north of Mexico City. Ten minutes later the vapour cloud ignited and a chain reaction of 13 separate explosions began at 5:44am - the two largest of which measured 0.5 on the Richter scale.

Of the 54 storage tanks at the facility only 4 were left standing amidst a crater the size of 4 football stadia. The neighbouring town of San Juan Ixhuatepec was destroyed as cylinders weighing as much as 30 tonnes were flung up to 1.2 kilometres away from the epicentre of the blast.

Twelve years later, on the 12th November 1996 an explosion on a much smaller scale involving two gas cylinders caused the deaths of four people and numerous casualties.