Villagers living near fuel infrastructure often drill into pipelines to extract fuel and sell it on the black market. This illegal practice is popularly known as "huachicoleo."
On Sunday, a gas line in Puebla city exploded, killing one person, injuring 15 citizens, and damaging 54 dwellings. This accident was apparently caused by several illegal taps used by the population to steal fuel.
About 80 minutes before the explosion, authorities received warnings of gas smell in the zone. They were able to evacuate near 2,000 residents and created a one-mille perimeter around the leak. Without these actions, the damage would have been catastrophic.
Rescue teams were dispatched, though there are no reports of missing people. Officials said 1,400 soldiers, National Guard troops, police, firefighters, and rescue personnel are still working in the area.
Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) presented condolences and support for the victims. Since he took office in Dec. 2018, he has been actively fighting fuel theft through holes in the pipelines, a practice popularly known as “huachicol.”
Villagers living near fuel infrastructure often drill into pipelines to extract fuel and sell it on the black market. To avoid this practice, the Obrador administration has even closed some pipelines.
However, official reports indicate that the problem continues. In March, for example, the Mexican government lost a daily average of 4,000 barrels of gasoline and diesel due to illegal taps.
Between July 2020 and July 2021, the number of illegal taps in Puebla increased from 168 to 1,081, according to the state-owned company PEMEX, which is the main target of the attacks. In January 2019, an explosion at an illegal pipeline tap killed 137 people in the state of Hidalgo.