A ruptured gasoline pipeline exploded Friday evening in Central Mexico leading to at least 85 reported casualties so far, officials said Monday. Another 66 injured including minors are currently receiving treatment, informed Mexico’s Secretary of Health Jorge Alcocer, while 76 people were still missing, according to Hidalgo state Governor Omar Fayad’s tweet on Saturday, January 19.
The explosion occurred in the rural town of Tlahuelilpan in the state of Hidalgo, approximately 100
Residents in the immediate vicinity of the pipeline, which runs from Tuxpan to Tula, have been evacuated, state-run oil company Pemex said. The incident has piped up the pressure on the Mexican government to curb illegal pipeline tap, a problem that is believed to have cost the country billions of dollars and led to Friday’s explosion.
A menace and a hazard
Hidalgo state police said the leak was first reported at approximately 5 PM local time followed by the explosion two hours later. An investigation into the cause of the blast has been launched, state general prosecutor Alejandro Gertz Manero informed, adding that static electricity from the synthetic clothing of people around the pipeline is the “preliminary belief.”
According to news reports, the pipeline had been damaged and patched a lot of times. Locals say the gasoline leak was manageable at first, “emitting a tame fountain of fuel” after which the government shut down the line of supply. When it returned to service after nearly four weeks, an impatient fuel collector punctured the line again, spraying gasoline 20 feet into the air.
Scores of Mexicans from the nearby community of 20,000 were reportedly gathered around the spigot to collect some “free” fuel when it exploded Friday. Photographic and
Response from authorities
The government said soldiers reportedly reached the scene after Pemex detected the illegal tap but failed to secure the area in time.
Officials told USA Today the soldiers were outnumbered and their instructions were to not intervene,
“What happened here should serve as an example for the whole nation to unite behind the fight that the president is carrying out against this ill,” municipal health director Jorge Aguilar Lopez was reported as saying by Global News. Coming on the same day as another pipeline explosion in the neighbouring state of Queretaro, also due to oil theft, the government has renewed its effort to crack down on the menace.
Governor Fayad urged the community not to steal gasoline, while the Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador visited Tlahuelilpan and met with officials at a command
The dry spell
According to some news reports, the involvement of gangs deters the law enforcement authorities from taking stringent action against fuel thieves.
The closure of key pipelines in an effort to end fuel theft is believed to have cost the nation $3 billion in 2018. Meanwhile, gas stations in the country’s capital and several key states are going through a dry spell for the last two weeks.
“To guarantee that there are no fuel shortages, it has been fundamental the participation of the armed forces, the military, marines
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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