1992 Guadalajara explosions
Location of Guadalajara
|Time||10:05 - 11:16 (UTC-6)|
|Date||April 22, 1992|
|Location||Analco, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico|
|Also known as||Guadalajara gas explosion|
|Property damage||thousands of homes affected|
|Convictions||4 Pemex officials charged for negligence|
A series of ten explosions took place on April 22, 1992, in the downtown district of Analco Colonia Atlas in Guadalajara city, Jalisco state, Mexico. Numerous gas explosions in the sewer system over four hours destroyed 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) of streets. Gante Street was the most damaged. By the accounting of Lloyd's of London, the reported number of people killed was about 252 people although many estimate that the catastrophe actually caused at least 1000 deaths. About 500 to 600 missing, nearly 500 injured and 15,000 were left homeless. The estimated monetary damage ranges between $300 million and $1 billion. The affected areas can be recognized by the more modern architecture in the areas that were destroyed.
Four days before the explosion, residents started complaining of a strong gas-like smell coming from the sewers which became progressively more pungent over the course of those days. They were experiencing symptoms such as stinging in their eyes and throats and nausea. Some residents even found gas coming out of their water pipes. City workers were dispatched to check the sewers and found dangerously high levels of gas fumes. However, the city mayor did not feel it was necessary to evacuate the city because he felt that there was no risk of an explosion.
Chronology of events
Before the explosions:
- April 19: Gante Street residents report a strong stench of gas and plumes of white smoke coming out from the sewers to the City of Guadalajara.
- April 21: Workers of the City Council and Protección Civil take two days to make revisions in Gante Street; they find strong levels of gas among other hydrocarbons, but announce it is not necessary to evacuate the area.
- April 22:
- 10:00: The manhole covers begin to bounce and columns of white smoke start coming out of them.
- 10:05: The first two explosions are recorded, the first in the corner of Calzada Independencia and Aldama Street, and the second at the intersection of Gante and 20 De Noviembre.
- 10:06: The first call is received on the 060 Emergency Line and was forwarded to automatic voice messenger.
- 10:08: Third explosion – a route 333 bus, belonging to the Tuts Company is projected through the air on the corner of Gante and Nicolas Bravo.
- 10:12: The fourth explosion is registered in Gonzalez Gallo Ave.
- 10:15: Factory workers along Gonzalez Gallo Ave. are evacuated.
- 10:16: Rescue teams and volunteers arrive in areas affected by the explosions.
- 10:23: The fifth explosion occurs at the intersection of Gante and Calzada del Ejercito.
- 10:29: The Mexicaltzingo neighborhood is evacuated.
- 10:31: The sixth explosion is recorded in the intersection of 5 De Febrero and Rio Bravo.
- 10:43: The seventh explosion occurs at the corner of Ghent Street and Silverio Garcia.
- 11:00: More rescue teams arrive in the affected areas.
- 11:02: The eighth explosion occurs at the intersection of Rio Nilo Ave. and the Rio Grande.
- 11:03: The neighborhoods of Atlas, Alamo Industrial, El Rosario, Quinta Velarde, Fraccionamiento Revolución and the center of the municipality of Tlaquepaque, are evacuated.
- 11:16: The last two explosions occur one at the intersection of Rio Alamos and Rio Pecos, and the other in González Gallo and Rio Suchiate
- After 12:00: The fear of further tragedies make people across the Guadalajara Metro Area uncover the manholes for any remaining gases to escape.
- 1:38: The residents of neighborhoods like Zona Industrial, 18 De marzo, Fresno, 8 De Julio, Ferrocarril, La Nogalera, Morelos, Echeverria, Polanco, 5 de mayo, and Miravalle are told to be aware of any unusual events.
After the explosions:
- April 25: There is great panic among residents of the neighborhoods 5 De Mayo, el Dean, Echeverría and Polanco; firefighters ask people to avoid lighting any flames, due to a strong smell of gas. It was later confirmed to be a leak in a Pemex pipe.
An investigation into the disaster found that there were two precipitating causes:
- New water pipes, made of zinc-coated iron, were built too close to an existing steel gas pipeline. The underground humidity caused these materials to create an electrolytic reaction, akin to that which occurs inside a zinc-carbon battery. As the reaction proceeded it eventually caused the steel gas pipe to corrode, creating a hole in the pipeline that permitted gas to leak into the ground and into the main sewer pipe.
- The sewer pipe had been recently rebuilt into a U-shape so that the city could expand their underground metro railway system. Usually sewers are built in a slope so that gravity helps move waste along. In order to get the U-shape to work, an inverted siphon was placed so that fluids could be pushed against gravity. The design was flawed, however. While liquids were successfully pumped through, gases were not, and gas fumes would build up.
In the aftermath, city officials and corporations pointed fingers at each other. Some people initially thought a cooking oil manufacturing company was leaking hexane, a flammable liquid similar to (and a component of) gasoline, into the sewers, but this was later found to be erroneous. Numerous arrests were made in an attempt to indict those responsible for the blasts. Four Pemex officials were indicted and charged, on the basis of negligence. Ultimately, however, these people were cleared of all charges.
Many of the survivors that were affected by the explosions started a group called "La Asociacion 22 de Abril en Guadalajara"(the association of April 22 of Guadalajara). This campaign was started by a survivor of the explosions named Lilia Ruiz Chávez, who as a result of the explosions lost her leg as well as her home. She started the group that has a total of 80 members not only because no one was convicted of this preventable incident but also because the victims of this tragedy were not receiving any compensation or assistance due to injuries sustained or loss as a result of the accident. The victims of this tragedy not only lost their homes but also their health and many lost loved ones as well. Although they are aware that no amount of money will bring back their relatives as states Chavez, the tragedy left them unable to care for themselves let alone afford their medication as a consequence of the incident. Chavez as well as the other survivors have been fighting for 24 years now for justice to be served. Because of the constant struggle and pressure from the victims toward Pemex, the company that was initially blamed for the incident, finally agreed to pay out 40 million pesos to the group. Although Pemex claims this is a donation and no way does it mean they are taking blame for the incident.
- National Geographic Seconds From Disaster episodes
- 2014 Kaohsiung gas explosions
- Louisville sewer explosions
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- Map with all explosions (Spanish)
- Miller, Marjorie (April 23, 1992). "Guadalajara Gas Blasts Kill 162 : Mexico: A daylong series of explosions thunders under the city, leveling houses and ripping open streets. More than 800 are injured. The cause is disputed". Los Angeles Times.