Mexico Pipeline Blast Death Toll Climbs to 66

Clay Curtis
January 19, 2019

Video taken in the aftermath showed people fleeing the scene, screaming for help, as an enormous fire lit up the night sky in Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo state, 65 miles (105 kilometers) north of Mexico City. Footage then showed flames shooting high into the air and the pipeline ablaze. They noted that many had died with their arms across their chests, as if in protection, while some even passed away embracing each other.

Lost shoes were scattered around the scorched field, as were plastic jugs and jerry cans that the victims had carried to gather spilling fuel. Estrada said that he was looking for his 13-year-old son, Hugo Olvera Bautista, who was at the pipeline when it exploded.

"I came looking for him when the fire was still going", he said.

After returning home from middle school yesterday, his father recounted, the boy went to join the crowd scooping up gasoline.

"Ay, no, where is my son?" yelled Hugo Olvera Estrada.

Mexico's president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has launched a major crackdown on fuel theft, which the government says cost the country more than $3bn past year.

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President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has declared an offensive against fuel theft, and on Friday he called on all branches of government to lend assistance to the victims.

Fayad appealed to people via Twitter to avoid taking fuel, saying they were putting their lives and those of their families at risk.

Locals were collecting the spilling petrol in buckets and rubbish bins when the fuel ignited on Friday, officials said. "What happened in Tlahuelilpan today should not happen again". Two hours later, the pipeline burst into flames.

Separately, Pemex said on Friday evening it was also dealing with a separate pipeline rupture by suspected fuel thieves in San Juan del Rio in the neighbouring state of Queretaro.

Lopez Obrador launched the offensive against illegal taps soon after taking office December 1, deploying 3,200 marines to guard pipelines and refineries.

"A lot of people arrived with their jerrycans, because of the gasoline shortages we've had", said Martin Trejo, 55, who was searching for his son, one of those who had gone to collect the leaking fuel. But there are not enough trucks, and long lines at gas stations have plagued several states.

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