Mexico pipeline blast kills 66 and injures dozens more

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Relatives gather at the scene as forensic workers carry out inspections (Reuters image)

Mexican authorities now put the number killed in Friday night’s fuel pipeline blast at 66, with scores more injured.

It is believed the explosion occurred after the line was ruptured by suspected fuel thieves in the town of Tlahuelilpan, in Hidalgo state.

Officials say scores of people had been scrambling to fill up containers and were engulfed in an inferno.

Dozens of charred bodies remain at the scene, which is cordoned off by security forces.

The latest updates were delivered by Hidalgo state governor, Omar Fayad, in a morning press briefing alongside President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

“The toll that we have until a few minutes ago… is 66 dead, while 76 are injured,” Mr Fayad said.

Among the injured were three women and a child of 12, he said.

It is believed fuel thieves drilled through the pipeline. Images before the explosion showed a large jet of liquid rising into the air.

Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned petroleum company, confirmed in a statement that the fire was caused by illegal tapping.

Public Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said the blaze had been extinguished shortly before midnight local time (06:00 GMT).

Some locals criticised security forces at the scene for not warning people more forcibly to get away from the leaking fuel.

Mr Durazo told broadcaster Televisa: “At some point there were too many people there and the army and military personnel withdrew to avoid problems.” That was shortly before the blast occurred.

Some locals said they needed to fill up on fuel.

“A lot of people arrived with their jerry cans, because of the gasoline shortages we’ve had,” resident Martin Trejo told AFP as he looked for his son who had gone to collect fuel.

Fuel theft, known locally as “huachicoleo” (or moonshining) is rampant in some Mexican communities.

The government has said the practice cost the country about $3bn (£2.3bn) last year. (Excerpts from BBC)

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