updated 10/17/2006 7:34:07 PM ET 2006-10-17T23:34:07

A gasoline tanker ship exploded Tuesday as a welding spark came into contact with fuel at a Mexican port, killing at least eight people and injuring nine others, officials said.

Four hundred workers were evacuated from the area of the ship, owned by Mexico’s national oil monopoly Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex.

The explosion at Pemex’s Pajarito marine terminal in the city of Coatzacoalcos occurred when the spark ignited gasoline, company spokesman David Lartundo and civil protection official Daniel Martinez told The Associated Press.

In a news release, Pemex said the ship was empty of fuel and out of service at the time of the explosion, but that a spark produced by welding work on a crane came into contact with residual gasoline left in the tanker.

Lartundo had said that the ship had been unloading fuel at the time of the blast. The discrepancies could not immediately be resolved.

The company’s news release said the blast in the gulf state of Veracruz killed three Pemex workers, three workers from repair company Lopez Garcia and two others who had not yet been identified. Nine more people were hospitalized for injuries, four of them minor, the company said.

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