Pipeline blast in Mexico kills 66, injures over 70

Pipeline blast in Mexico kills 66, injures over 70

At least 20 people were killed when a Pemex pipeline in Hidalgo exploded at the site of an illegal tap, the governor of the Mexican state said.

Locals were attempting to gather the fuel with buckets when the massive fire erupted in the small town of Tlahuelilpan in Hidalgo, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Mexico City.

The state oil company Pemex said the explosion was caused by illegal taps in the pipeline, according to CNN.

Fayad called on the community to not steal gasoline.

"There's still a very hot area where we think the number of injured or dead we haven't had access to could rise", he said. All in all, the fuel theft industry represents about $3 billion in Mexico, and President Lopez Obrador intends to stop it.

Pemex attributed the blaze to "the manipulation of an illegal tap". The Mexican president also said that he was in contact with local authorities and that he had instructed them to gain control of the fire and help the victims.

The Mexican government held a press conference early Saturday morning at the National Palace "to inform the relatives of the victims, the people and the media, details related to the tragedy in Tlahuelilpan".

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

Lopez Obrador launched an offensive against fuel theft after taking office December 1.

Dozens of burned bodies lay in the charred field where the blast occurred on Friday evening by the town of Tlahuelilpan in the central state of Hidalgo in what was one of the worst incidents to hit Mexico's troubled oil infrastructure in years.

The government has shut off major pipelines until they can be fully secured and deployed the army to guard Pemex production facilities.

He said that it's not only illegal, but also "puts your life and families at risk".

"I am calling on the entire population not to be accomplices to fuel theft", Fayad wrote.

The president's crackdown on theft has significant public backing, though his decision to turn off pipelines to thwart the thieves disrupted fuel supply in central Mexico and raised concern that the shortages could damage the economy.

The war against fuel theft was a theme repeated by people in Tlahuelilpan, which is crossed by pipelines and located just a few miles from a refinery. There are not enough trucks, however, and long queues at gas stations have plagued several states.

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