1992 Guadalajara Explosions

An electrolytic reaction can, at the same time,  make a zinc-carbon battery work, but also deprive the Guadalajara city of its life. Under the district of Analco Colonia Atlas, the new water zinc-coated iron pipes that formed the sewerage system of the city were built in a contiguous distance from an existing steel gasoline pipeline. The materials in combination with the underground humidity caused the aforementioned electrolytic reaction. The steel pipe corroded and created a hole in the pipeline. Gasoline found its way out and entered the main sewerage system.

From this integrated underground system of the main sewer and gasoline pipeline, the metro railway could not be excluded. In order to allow the future expansion of metro lines in Guadalajara, the sewer pipes were built in an U-shape, while an inverted syphon was meant to push away the fluids against gravity. However, the design was not flawless, because there was no provision for the removal of gas fumes that subsequently caused their accumulation.

The Guadalajara 1992 Sewer Gas Explosion Disaster was determined from those two factors. On Wednesday, April 22, 1992 a series of sewer gasoline explosions drew an unforgettable line both in the map of the city and in the memory of the people. Over a period of four hours, tore apart 6 miles of sewer pipes and turned heavily trafficked streets, like Gante and 20 de Noviembre, into a pile of rubbles. The multiple blasts caused the death of 206 people; the injury of 1460 people; the damage of 1,148 buildings;  the destroyance of 350 businesses and 505 vehicles; and the housing shortage for 15,000 people.

Prior to the explosion, the residents had informed The Guadalajara Fire Department that there is an odor of gasoline coming from the depths of the sewerage system. Together with SIAPA, on Tuesday, April 21, 1992, they visited the Reforma district neighborhood, which was the origin of the complaints.They engaged the state civil defence unit and paradoxically enough,notified Pemex Petroleum to assist in diagnosing the problem. Although never took the blame, Pemex’s history in prior industrial disasters, the amount of required litres of hexane that is need to cause an explosion of this magnitude, the blanket of the fuel covering 16 square blocks near La Nogalera (area of Pemex facilities that is close to the explosion) and the fact that Pemex donate 40 million pesos to "La Asociación 22 de Abril en Guadalajara", might shed the light on the main causes of the catastrophe. However, everything, from the research to the real data, remained blurred.

Back to Lexicon

Corrosion and hole in larger gasoline pipeline and smaller steel water pipe on top.Photo courtesy of Jose M. Malo, Electrical Research Institute,