Written by Reuters
20 Jan, 2019 | 5:31 pm
Reuters – The death toll from a pipeline explosion in central Mexico has climbed to 73 and could continue to rise, the governor of the state of Hidalgo said on Saturday evening. The explosion on Friday night also injured 74 others, several of whom are fighting for their lives, Hidalgo Governor Omar Fayad said at a press conference.
The blast and ensuing blaze occurred at a pipeline spot in the community of San Primitivo of the municipality of Tlahuelilpan at around 19:00 local time on Friday when hundreds of people gathered around a leak to collect fuel.
The pipeline of the state-owned petroleum company Pemex runs from the coast of the Gulf of Mexico to the Tula refinery, near the site of the incident. Fayad said that the death toll could rise further as many of the injured were struggling between “life and death.”
According to the local government, between 600 and 800 people had gathered in the drilling area to collect leaking fuel with containers and many of them were caught in the blast. Fayad said that military personnel and police tried to disperse the crowd after the armed forces responded to the leak at around 17:00 local time, but people ignored the warning until the explosion came.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who only took office last month, said he was dismayed by the tragedy. He offered his deepest sympathy to the families of the victims and ordered the government to offer support. The most important thing now was attending to the injured in order to save people’s lives, the president said.
Authorities indicated that the pipeline leakage was illegally tapped into by fuel thieves, a problem that has regularly afflicted the Pemex pipelines. Lopez Obrador, who started his term on Dec 1, has launched a major crackdown on increasing fuel theft in Mexico, which cost the country some three billion U.S. dollars last year.
The incident is the biggest tragedy to have occurred due to pipeline explosions in Mexico in recent years. In December 2010, 30 people were killed and 52 others injured in a series of explosions involving two oil pipelines in the central state of Puebla.
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