Published: Sat, January 19, 2019
Markets | By Otis Pena

Dozens killed as pipeline explodes into flames in Mexico

Dozens killed as pipeline explodes into flames in Mexico

At least 20 people have been killed and 71 injured in central Mexico when a pipeline ruptured by suspected fuel thieves exploded as people were trying to fill up containers, the government of Hidalgo state said.

The cause of the explosion, said state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), was a rupture caused by illegal tapping of the pipeline.

The explosion came just three weeks after new Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador launched an offensive against fuel theft gangs that drilled risky, illegal taps into pipelines an astounding 12,581 times in the first 10 months of 2018, an average of about 42 per day.

Hidalgo Gov. Omar Fayad said there were "many people" burned.

Backing comments made earlier by his minister for public security, Lopez Obrador said the army had been right to avoid a confrontation due to the number of people seeking to benefit from free fuel at the pipeline site.

López Obrador rushed to the state of Hidalgo, where the explosion occurred, about 60 miles north of Mexico City.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has launched a major crackdown on rampant fuel theft, which the Government said cost the country more than $US3 billion a year ago.

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"I went just to see what was happening, and then the explosion happened".

"The people already know what they're getting into with this", he said as he wrapped a blanket tightly around himself against the cold. All in all, the fuel theft industry represents about $3 billion in Mexico, and President Lopez Obrador intends to stop it.

Another pipeline burst into flames earlier Friday in the neighboring state of Queretaro as a result of another illegal tap.

Residents who live near the pipeline have been evacuated, Pemex added. He called on all branches of government to assist the victims.

Fayad said that, two hours after the pipeline was punctured, "we were informed that there had been an explosion" and the flames "were consuming everything around".

The tragedy comes as anti-corruption crusader Lopez Obrador presses implementation of a controversial fuel theft prevention plan. Earlier this month, Mexico's new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, closed numerous country's pipelines, saddling dozens of cities with an acute gasoline shortage.

The president, who took office on December 1, has vowed to keep up the fight and asked Mexicans to be patient. Lopez Obrador says his decision to shut down pipelines to combat crime has greatly reduced theft.

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