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  • A PEMEX sign in Monterrey, Mexico, August 8, 2018.

    A PEMEX sign in Monterrey, Mexico, August 8, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 4 March 2019
Opinion

So far 135 people have died from a massive oil pipeline explosion that took place Jan. 18 in Hidalgo, Mexico.

So far 135 people have died from a massive oil pipeline explosion that took place Jan. 18 in Hidalgo, Mexico, according to the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS).

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On Saturday night another victim of the pipeline fire in Hidalgo state north of Mexico City died at the Specialty Medical Unit (UMAE) in Mexico City. Two days prior Hidalgo state authorities announced that the 134 person had passed.

Of the 135 registered deaths, just under half of them, 67, died from explosion injuries while in the hospital.

The burn victims are prone to infections in the kidneys, cardiovascular and respiratory systems because they were exposed to extreme temperatures and suffered burns in their tracheas and bronchial tubes.

On the day of the tragedy, people gathered around a leaking pipeline in Tlahuelilpan at about 5 p.m. with bottles and containers to collect the fuel for use of sale amid national gasoline shortages meant to combat fuel stealing in the first place.

On Dec. 27 President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) launched a crackdown on fuel theft ordering the temporary closedown of certain pipelines, including the one in Tlahuelilpan, to prevent illegal pipeline taps that cost the heavily-indebted state oil firm Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) US$3.4 billion in losses in 2018 alone.

The Mexican army arrived to guard off the area of the lead but could not control some 200 people who began siphoning the highly flammable liquid. Just before the pipeline erupted military agents ordered the crowd to leave the area but many didn’t comply.

Eight people remain hospitalized: five in hospitals in Mexico City and three are being cared for in Shriners Hospital in Galveston, Texas; six patients have been able to return home since the accident occurred.

"A lot of innocent people came here, perhaps their car didn't have enough gasoline for tomorrow, and they said: 'I'm just going to go for a few liters'," said local farmer Isidoro Velasco, 51 at the time of the major accident.

Critics say the government did too little to prevent people from gathering at the scene before the explosion and was too slow to respond to reports of pipeline breaks.

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