Tlahurlilpan, Mexico: An explosion and fire killed at least 66 people who were illegally collecting fuel gushing from a leaking pipeline in central Mexico, the Hidalgo state governor said on Saturday.
“The toll that we have until a few minutes ago... is 66 dead, while 76 are injured,” said the governor, Omar Fayad.
Forensic specialists in white suits worked on Saturday among the charred, blackened corpses at the scene, which was guarded by soldiers as the pungent smell of fuel still hung in the air.
Scores of locals with jerrycans and buckets had been collecting gasoline pouring from the pipeline when the blast occurred on Friday, according to witnesses. Video taken in the aftermath showed screaming people fleeing the scene as an enormous fire lit up the night sky in Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo state, 65 miles (105 kilometers) north of Mexico City.
“I went just to see what was happening, and then the explosion happened. I rushed to help people,” Fernando Garcia, 47, told AFP. “I had to claw through pieces of people who had already been burned to bits.” The tragedy comes during a highly publicized federal government war on fuel theft, a problem that cost Mexico an estimated $3 billion in 2017.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador traveled to the scene in the early hours of Saturday.
“I am deeply saddened by the suffering in Tlahuelilpan caused by the explosion of a pipeline,” the leftist leader wrote on Twitter.
“I call on the whole government to assist people there.”Federal and state firefighters and ambulances run by state oil company Pemex rushed to help victims with burns and take the injured to hospitals. The flood of patients overflowed local medical facilities, said AFP correspondents at the scene.
By around midnight Friday the fire had been brought under control, the security ministry said....