Pipeline explosion kills 21 in Mexico

Pipeline explosion kills 21 in Mexico

Pipeline explosion kills 21 in Mexico

At least 21 people were killed in central Mexico after a ruptured gasoline pipeline blew up Friday evening, the governor of the state of Hidalgo said.

The crackdown on fuel theft has become a litmus test of Lopez Obrador's drive to tackle corruption in Mexico - and to stop illegal taps draining billions of dollars from the heavily-indebted state oil firm Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex).

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.

Gov. Omar Fayad said on Twitter that at least 76 others were injured in the explosion in Tlahuelilpan, a town about 80 miles north of Mexico City.

"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. The problem has cost Mexico an estimated $3 billion in 2017.

Video footage showed dozens of residents near the town of Tlahuelilpan gathered to collect spilled fuel in buckets, garbage cans and other vessels.

Lopez Obrador expressed his concern on Twitter, and said he wanted "the entire government" to help people at the scene.

Thieves drilled about 12,581 illegal taps in the first 10 months of 2018.

"The people already know what they're getting into with this", he said as he wrapped a blanket tightly around himself against the cold.

"Some people came out burning and screaming", he added. This, besides being unlawful, puts your life and that of the families at risk.

TLAHUELILPAN, MEXICO - JANUARY 19: (EDITORS NOTE: Image depicts graphic content) A forensic doctor works with burned bodies after an explosion in a pipeline belonging to Mexican oil company PEMEX on January 19, 2019 in Tlahuelilpan, Mexico. Thousands of marines have been deployed to guard pipelines and transport has been shut down altogether in places.

Earlier, local residents had been siphoning off fuel from a leak in the pipeline, which is near the Tula oil refinery.

Lopez Obrador had recently launched a major offensive to crack down on rampant fuel theft in the country.

The explosion comes as gas stations in several Mexican states and the country's capital have been running dry for almost two weeks.

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

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