Posted by News Express | 19 January 2019 | 633 times
The death toll in the oil pipeline fire in central Mexico has risen to at least 66, with 76 injured. Earlier reports had put the dead at 21.
The tragedy comes as the federal government is waging a highly publicised war on fuel theft, a problem that cost Mexico an estimated $3 billion in 2017.
According to the AFP, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, along with Octavio Perez, the head of state owned Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, travelled to the scene in the early hours of Saturday.
“I am deeply saddened by the suffering in Tlahuelilpan caused by the explosion of a pipeline,” the leftist leader wrote on Twitter.
“I call on the whole government to assist people there.”
Federal and state firefighters and ambulances run by Pemex rushed to help victims with burns and take the wounded to hospitals.
The flood of patients overflowed local clinics and hospitals, said AFP correspondents at the scene.
Security Minister Alfonso said around midnight that the fire had been brought under control.
The pipeline exploded Friday as it was being illegally tapped by fuel thieves near the town of Tlahuelilpan, 75 miles north of Mexico City.
Scores of locals with jerry cans and buckets had been collecting gasoline that was gushing from a leaking pipeline when the explosion occurred, according to witnesses.
Video taken in the aftermath showed desperate people fleeing the scene, screaming for help, as the enormous fire lit up the night sky in Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo state, 65 miles (105 kilometers) north of Mexico City.
“I went just to see what was happening, and then the explosion happened. I rushed to help people,” Fernando Garcia, 47, told AFP. “I had to claw through pieces of people who had already been burned to bits.”
The deadly blast came amid a move by Lopez Obrador to send thousands of troops and police to guard pipelines as part of a major effort to eliminate rampant fuel theft.
The president has also accused fuel thieves — known here as huachicoleros of sabotaging fuel lines in a bid to thwart the government crackdown.
A website was being set up Saturday with names of the missing to match with bodies recovered at the site, authorities said.
Images circulating on social media and on television showed horrific scenes of what appeared to be calcified bodies and badly burned victims whose clothes had been seared off at the site of the explosion.
Pemex said it was also responding to another fire at a botched pipeline tap in the central state of Queretaro, though in that case there were no victims.
Mexico is regularly rocked by deadly explosions at illegal pipeline taps, a dangerous but lucrative business whose players include powerful drug cartels and corrupt Pemex insiders. (AFP)
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