City officials investigated in Guadalajara explosions


GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- The chief government prosecutor Friday concluded the first day of investigations to determine if city officials were negligent in not preventing a series of gas explosions that killed at least 205 people.

Judicial agents questioned top Guadalajara officials as part of the inquiry led by Attorney General Ignacio Morales Lechuga.


President Carlos Salinas de Gortari has given the chief prosecutor a 72-hour deadline that expires Sunday to determine who was responsible for Wednesday's disaster in the old downtown of Guadalajara, 300 miles northwest of Mexico City.

The city's mayor Enrique Dau Flores, who asked for a leave of absence Thursday until the investigation is completed, Friday acknowledged that he had been warned about the possibility of an explosion.

But Dau Flores declined to explain why he decided not to order an evacuation of the area.


Fire Chief Trinidad Lopez, Water Department Director Gualberto Limon Macias and Urban Services Director David Partida, who resigned Thursday night, were summoned for questioning Friday.

Officials from the state-owned oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, known as Pemex, and the Department of Urban Development and Ecology also were questioned by judicial agents.

Meanwhile, a group of federal legislators flew to Guadalajara to conduct their own investigation into the causes of the explosions.

The Guadalajara officials failed to order an evacuation because they wanted to avoid 'causing alarm,' in the capital of Jalisco state, Gov. Guillermo Cosio said.

The death toll rose to 205 Friday after the bodies of three children were pulled from the rubble. Roberto Alvarez, who is coordinating rescue efforts, said that hope still exists of finding more survivors.

Jalisco state officials said the number of injured had reached 1,440, while 4,443 people were left homeless.

Preliminary government reports indicated that property damaged reached $60 million.

Meanwhile, Pemex employees reported a gasoline leak in a pipeline, but denied it caused Wednesday's explosions that turned more than 20- square blocks of Guadalajara into trenches filled with overturned vehicles, debris from flatten buildings, and bodies.


A Mexico City daily reported Friday that thousands of gallons of gasoline leaked from a pipeline about 500 meters from a neighborhood where several of the explosions occurred. But Pemex spokesman Roberto Franco said, 'The gasoline leak had no relation with the explosions.'

'We maintain that the explosions were caused by leaks of hexane gas' from a cooking oil facility in the area, he said. He added that the petroleum company was cooperating with investigators seeking the source of the leak.

Franco said the leaking pipeline that supplied 17 gas stations in the Guadalajara area was shut off Thursday, but that 67 other gas stations continue to supply the city with fuel.

The state-owned oil company tightened security around the pipeline and a nearby gas distribution center. Guards prevented reporters from entering the center.

Hexane is an extremely volatile mixture of alcohol, chloroform and ether, and one theory is that this gas filtered into the city sewer system and blew up. But some experts believe it unlikely that hexane was to blame since it would take very large amounts of the substance to provoke the explosions of the size that rocked Guadalajara.

Residents of the devastated neighborhoods called fire and police chiefs on Tuesday to report a foul odor. Authorities said they checked local water and sewer systems over a 25-mile square area, but abandoned their efforts when they couldn't find the source of the odor.


The explosions ripped through Guadalajara's historic center starting about 10 a.m. Wednesday and devastated a 2 -mile-square area.

Water, drainage, electricity and telephone lines in the area were still down Friday.

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