MEXICO CITY – A massive fireball that absorbed people who injected fuel spills from a pipeline torn by twenty in central Mexico, killing 21 people and badly burning 71 others in what was a chronicle of a tragedy predicted .
It came just three weeks after the new president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador launched an offensive fuel theft gangs that erupt dangerous pipeline illegal taps an astounding 1
With townspeople often involved, either helping thieves or collecting spilled fuel in primitive containers, it was only a matter of time before a fire arose.
In fact, they have happened before, but rarely with the scale and terrible deaths in Friday's fire in the state of Hidalgo, which came as people collected the spilled petrol in buckets, plastic cans and trash cans.
The leakage was due to an illegal pipeline in the small town of Tlahuelilpan, about 62 kilometers north of Mexico City, according to the state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos or Pemex.
Video footage showed dozens of residents in an almost festive atmosphere, as whole families gathered in a field like a fuel geyser spitting dozens of feet into the air from the tap.
Footage then showed flames high into the air against a night sky and the pipeline burns. Screaming people ran from the flames, some burning and waving their arms.
Hidalgo Gov. Omar Fayad said 21 people were killed immediately and 71 sufferers were burning in the explosion at the fuel-carrying channel – apparently gasoline – from the Gulf Coast to Tula, a city just north of Mexico City.
Pemex attributed the flame to "the manipulation of an illegal pressure."
The Hidalgo police said the leak was first reported at 17:00 local time.
"There was a report that residents were on the spot and tried to get fuel," according to a police report. Two hours later, the pipeline spread in flames.
And another pipeline broke into flames in neighboring Queretaro on Friday due to another illegal pressure. Pemex said the fire near the town of San Juan del Rio was "in an unpopulated area and there is no risk to humans."
In December 2010, the authorities owed oil dives to a pipeline explosion in a central Mexico near the capital that killed 28 people, including 13 children.
It blew people and burned homes, which hit 5,000 residents in an area of 10 km wide in San Martin Texmelucan.
Blastet will further focus attention on Lopez Obradors fighting the $ 3 billion annual illegal fuel theft industry.
"I very much regret the serious situation the Tlahuelilpan suffers from the explosion of the channel," Lopez Obrador tweeted. He called on all branches of government to help the victims.
He launched the offensive after taking office on December 1, utilizing 3,200 Marines to preserve pipelines and refineries. His administration also abandons pipelines to detect and deter illegal taps, relying more on supplying fuel with tankers. However, there are not enough trucks and long lines at gas stations have plagued several states.
But Lopez Obrador faces resistance in his fight against the fuel. Gangs have been able to win loyalty across neighborhoods using free gasoline and causing locals to function as lookout points and confronting military patrols raiding thefts.
It is unclear whether Friday's tragedy will turn the tide against gangs in the poor villages overlying the underground pipelines.
"I urge the entire population not to be accomplices to fuel theft," Fayad wrote. "What happened today in the Tlahuelilpan must never happen again."
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