Mexico: Deadly blaze erupts at illegal fuel pipeline

Mexico pipeline explosion

A massive fire is seen following an explosion in Tlahuelilpan Mexico on Jan. 18 2019

Fuel thieves had drilled into the pipeline, causing the leak in the small town, according to state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pennex.

Local residents were advised to take precautions from a lingering toxic cloud on Saturday as authorities in the central Mexican state of Hildalgo said the death toll from a gasoline pipeline explosion had risen to 66.

"I urge the entire population not to be complicit in fuel theft", Fayad said on Twitter.

Hidalgo Gov. Omar Fayad said there were "many people" burned.

Fayad said that, two hours after the pipeline was punctured, "we were informed that there had been an explosion" and the flames "were consuming everything around".

Scores of locals with jerrycans and buckets had been collecting gasoline that was gushing from the pipeline when the blast occurred on Friday, according to witnesses. A charred vehicle at the scene of that fire also suggested fuel theft may have been involved.

"The people already know what they're getting into with this", he said as he wrapped a blanket tightly around himself against the cold.

"What happened here", said municipal health director Jorge Aguilar Lopez, "should serve as an example for the whole nation to unite behind the fight that the president is carrying out against this ill". "This, besides being illegal, puts your life and the lives of your families at risk". A presidential spokesman, Jesus Ramirez, said in an interview yesterday most pipelines had been reopened and would only be closed when illegal taps were detected.

The government estimates that fuel theft cost the country more than $3 billion a year ago and has launched a major crackdown by temporarily closing several pipelines.

The tragedy comes during a highly publicised federal government war on fuel theft, a problem that cost Mexico an estimated $3 billion in 2017.

TLAHUELILPAN, MEXICO A burnt body is observed following an explosion in Mexico.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who took office in December, has launched a major crackdown.

Some locals criticised security forces at the scene for not warning people more forcibly to get away from the leaking fuel. But there aren't enough trucks, and long lines at gas stations have plagued several states. "What happened in Tlahuelilpan today should not happen again".

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