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Mexico fuel-pipe blaze death toll rises to 79

The tragedy comes as the federal government wages a highly publicised war on fuel theft.

Soldiers guard the area where the explosion was recorded in Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo state, Mexico
Soldiers guard the area where the explosion was recorded in Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo state, Mexico
Image: Secretary of National Defense via PA Images

Updated Jan 20th 2019, 6:36 PM

THE DEATH TOLL toll from a fiery explosion at the site of an illegally tapped fuel line in central Mexico rose today to 79, officials said.

Hundreds of people had been drawn to the site in the state of Hidalgo on Friday to gather fuel amid shortages and a government crackdown on pipeline fuel thefts.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation, Attorney General Alejandro Gertz told a news conference.

Health Minister Jorge Alcocer said six more bodies were found during a final search of the site in the town of Tlahuelilpan, in addition to 73 previously reported dead.

He said 66 people injured in the explosion were hospitalized in Hidalgo, while those in more serious condition have been moved to Mexico City for specialised care.

“There are patients in serious condition with burns of more than 80% (of their bodies),” he said, adding that their prognosis was “reserved.”

The search for remains ended last night but families of the victims called for the search to continue and for forensic experts to return to the scene.

Images captured by local media showed a torrent of fuel escaping from a pipeline after thieves tapped into it.

As many as 700 people had converged on the site with buckets and drums to collect gasoline when the explosion occurred.

Local media showed people screaming as they fled, their clothes in flames, some with severe burns.

Gertz said that the investigation did not seek to “victimise the communities”.

“We are going to find those responsible for actions that generated this tragedy,” he said.

“Victimising the whole population is not (the investigation’s) function nor is it established in the law.”

© – AFP 2019 

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