Pipeline explodes in central Mexico, killing at least 21

The scene of the blaze outside of Mexico City

In this image provided by the Secretary of National Defense, soldiers guard in the area near an oil pipeline explosion in Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo state, 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 governor of Hidalgo state, Omar Fayad, said Saturday the death toll had risen to at least 66. It is considered to be a key fuel-theft region used by organized crime members to tap into fuel lines, law enforcement sources revealed to Breitbart News.

Locals were collecting the spilling petrol in buckets and rubbish bins when the fuel ignited on Friday, officials said.

More than 85 other people on Saturday were listed as missing a day after a massive fireball erupted at an illegal pipeline tap in the small town of Tlahuelilpan, about 62 miles north of Mexico City.

The government estimates that its state oil company PEMEX has lost $3 billion (€2.6 billion) annually from fuel theft.

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

In the first months of 2018, thieves drilled approximately 12,581 illegal taps.

Local medical facilities struggled to cope with the flood of arriving victims, said AFP correspondents at the scene.

"I urge the entire population not to be complicit in fuel theft", Fayad said on Twitter.

The government estimates that fuel theft cost the country more than $3 billion previous year and has launched a major crackdown by temporarily closing several pipelines.

"I greatly lament the grave situation Tlahuelilpan is suffering because of the explosion of the duct", Lopez Obrador tweeted.

Two hours later, the gushing pipeline exploded, turning what had been an excited gathering into a hellish inferno.

Gangs of fuel thieves like these reportedly opened illegal taps an average of 42 taps per day across the country past year, with a total of 12,581 taps in the first 10 months of 2018.

"I call on the whole government to assist people there".

But Lopez Obrador, who vowed to continue the crackdown on fuel theft, defended the army against questions about why soldiers failed to prevent the tragedy.

The war against fuel theft was a theme repeated by people in Tlahuelilpan, which is crossed by pipelines and located just a few miles from a refinery.



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