Rescue personelle working to save victims during the Mexico pipe line explosion. Photo: Screenshot from the Guardian´s video.
22 Jan 2019

Pipeline explosion killed at least 89 people in Mexico


The accident occurred at a leaking oil pipeline where an unknown number of people were trying to steal the oil that was pouring out from a breach in the pipeline.

Videos on TV and internet show tall flames shooting up from the pipeline in the city of Tlahuelilpan, 100 km (62 miles) north of Mexico City, while desperate people were fleeing while screaming for help.

At the initial stage, about 20 were estimated dead. Later it was clear that 66 people were instantly killed, according to Omar Fayad, governor of Hidalgo. 76 people were injured according to Omar Fayad, and during the week the total death has since the accident risen to 89 with more possible deaths expected to occur among the injured.

The explosion occurred on Friday, in an area  known for fuel theft.

"What we know is that it was a spot where fuel thefts often have occurred, and the authorities were aware of it," says Fayad.

Forensic experts have been working on the site, under the protection of soldiers, to investigate the remains of the dead. The death toll is expected to rise. 76 people have been injured according to Omar Fayad.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador visited the scene of the accident on Saturday morning and expressed his deep grief in a statement on Twitter. López Obrador has today launched a national campaign against fuel ftheft, which is a major problem in the country.

As part of the campaign, important oil pipelines are shut down until they are completely safe, and the army has been called in to monitor the facilities of state oil company Pemex.

However, this strategy has led to fuel shortages in parts of the country, including in the capital Mexico City. Fuel shortages have forced people to queue to refuel their vehicles. The president has urged the residents to be patient.

"We will continue until we put an end to this behavior (fuel theft)," said López Obrador during his visit to the scene of the accident.

Thefts are common

At the same time, more than 1,700 fuel theft cases are being investigated. Alongside drugs, fuel theft during the previous government have grown into a major component of the black market in Mexico, which the current government is trying to combat.

In some places, thefts are a large local source of income for any people, however deadly explosions at illegal fuel stations are common.