Mexican authorities now say at least 73 people were killed in Friday night’s fuel pipeline blast.
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.
Hidalgo state governor Omar Fayad said 74 people had been hospitalised after the blast.
Locals said President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s new policy to crack down on fuel theft had created shortages.
“Everyone came to see if they could get a bit of gasoline for their car,” farmer Isaias García told Reuters news agency. “There isn’t any in petrol stations.”
Distraught relatives have continued to gather at site of the explosion.
Forensic experts have been photographing remains amid a backdrop of burned clothing and discarded fuel buckets. Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned petroleum company, said the fire had been caused by illegal tapping.
It is believed thieves drilled through the pipeline. Images before the explosion showed a large jet of liquid rising into the air. Some locals criticised security forces at the scene for not warning people more forcibly to get away from the leaking fuel.
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.
But President López Obrador defended the army against criticism, saying they were right not to confront such a large crowd.
He also avoided criticising the people, saying if they had to resort to “extremes” by stealing fuel “it’s because they were abandoned”. A few litres of fuel are worth more than the daily minimum wage in Mexico. (BBC)