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  • Forensic technicians work at the site where a fuel pipeline ruptured by suspected oil thieves exploded, in the municipality of Tlahuelilpan, state of Hidalgo, Mexico Jan. 19, 2019.

    Forensic technicians work at the site where a fuel pipeline ruptured by suspected oil thieves exploded, in the municipality of Tlahuelilpan, state of Hidalgo, Mexico Jan. 19, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 19 January 2019

The fuel explosion created a 'fire barrier', causing a large number of people to become trapped in a ditch-like area.

The number of people killed by the explosion in a pipeline of the Mexican state oil company Pemex in the center of the country caused by a clandestine takeover for the extraction of fuel rose to 66, officials said Saturday.
 

RELATED:
Mexico's Fuel Sales Increase as AMLO Confronts 'Huachicoleo'

The governor of the state of Hidalgo, Omar Fayad, said at a press conference - together with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador - that so far 76 people had been injured, including seven children under 18 and a child of 12 years.

The accident occurred Friday afternoon in Tlahuelilpan when dozens of people, using buckets, were illegally collecting fuel, which stagnated in farmlands.

"There are many burned people, who were in the area trying to collect fuel where the leak escaped," said Fayad.

Veteran leftist Lopez Obrador launched a crackdown on fuel theft on Dec. 27 and ordered pipelines to be closed temporarily to stop illegal taps draining billions of dollars from the heavily-indebted state oil firm Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex).

"Far from stopping the fight ... against fuel theft, it's going to become stronger, we'll continue until we've eradicated these practices," Lopez Obrador said early on Saturday.

The mayor of Tlahuelilpan, Juan Pedro Cruz, said that the pipeline's leakage was reported at 5:00 pm. The Mexican Army arrived then to cordon off the area but could not control some 200 people who were extracting the fuel. The agents asked the crowd to leave the area but they did not comply with the order, which caused the tragedy.

"More than 12,500 illegal fuel taps made foreseeable a misfortune such as that of Tlahuelilpan in Hidalgo. It was a miracle that there were no more explosions with victims like tonight, according to Pemex technicians."

"I am very sorry for the serious situation in Tlahuelilpan due to a pipeline explosion... I gave instructions to control the fire and attend to the victims," Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), wrote in a Twitter message.

Meanwhile, as part of a first official report, Mexico's Secretary of Government, Simon Vargas, stated that 29 died and 61 wounded were transferred to hospitals.

The fuel explosion created a 'fire barrier', causing a large number of people to become trapped in a ditch-like area.

The Tlahuelilpan tragedy occurs at a time when several Mexican states continue to have fuel shortages, which are reportedly related to the stealing of gas from the pipelines of Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX).

Since at least 15 days ago, Pemex changed its fuel supply model, prompting gas shortages in several places. Currently, the state-owned company uses tankers to supply gas in order to halt the 'Huachicoleo' or fuel stealing, which caused US$3.4 billion losses in 2018.

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