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Three dead after blast at petrochemical site in Mexico

The blast also injured at least 45 people and sent a cloud of noxious chemicals into the sky.

Local emergency officials said hundreds of people had been evacuated from the site in the Gulf state of Veracruz.

Television footage showed an initial burst of flames followed by a tower of thick smoke.

The cause of the blast is unclear, but Pemex warned local residents to keep their distance from the site due to what it described as a dissipating cloud of toxic fumes.

A company official said local oil exports were not affected.

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Mexico confirms 11 pregnant women have Zika virus

Eleven pregnant women in Mexico have been diagnosed with the Zika virus, with 121 cases in total in the country, the government has revealed.

The Zika virus has been linked to microcephaly Credit: Reuters

Most of the cases have been reported in the southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, the health ministry report said, as official figures show a 50 per cent rise in reports since mid-February.

The virus has been linked with neurological conditions including microcephaly, a condition which leads to babies being born with undersized skills and developmental problems.

More than 580 cases of microcephaly have been confirmed in Brazil, with health bosses there considering them to be related to Zika infections in the mothers.

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Pope urges Mexican bishops to take stand against drugs

Pope Francis is making his first visit to Mexico since becoming Pontiff. Credit: Reuters

Pope Francis has called on bishops in Mexico to courageously take a stand against drugs, gangs and corruption on his first visit to the country as Pontiff.

Speaking with Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto by his side at the National Palace, Francis said social, cultural and political leaders had a duty to help citizens stand up against the drug trade, which he said "devours like a metastasis."

He told them to make it clear to drug dealers that they could not consider themselves good Catholics if their hands were "drenched in blood, but pockets filled with sordid money and their consciences deadened."

More than 100,000 people have been killed in drug violence in Mexico over the last decade - about 26,000 are missing.

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