The fire of a gas pipeline on Friday in Mexico while it was looted by dozens of people has caused at least 66 dead and 71 wounded, at a time when the government is conducting a national strategy to combat this crime.
"It's a tragedy that hurts us a lot, we're here to provide all the support, help for the residents, the victims, the victims," President Andrés Manuel López Obrador told reporters as they visited disaster area.
He added that the misfortune "does not change" his strategy against fuel theft and rather shows "unfortunately" the need to maintain it. "We will continue to eradicate this practice," he added.
The fire was put down shortly before Saturday midnight (6.00 GMT), so it is expected that the public ministry will access the disaster center and check if there are more dead and injured, said Omar Fayad, Governor of the state of Hidalgo, where the accident
"Unfortunately I saw the explosion, I went to help a lot of people," says Fernando García, a 47-year-old resident of the area. "I had to put aside pieces of people that had already been discarded," he adds.
In the place, surrounded by crops, elements of the army and the police cordon outside the area while the fire fighting units work between columns of smoke.
Garcia criticizes that the army did not retract the people who were approaching when the fuel started to go out.
"All this would have been prevented if the army, once arrived, had thrown away all the people," he said.
Before the fire was extinguished, a huge glow and a huge column of smoke were erected on the explosion area, while several emergency vehicles surrounded the perimeter.
– Visible burns –
Meanwhile, ambulance caravans with people burned on board have filled clinics and hospitals near the area, a journalist told AFP.
The fire originated from a gas leak that had attracted dozens of area residents who were supplied with hydrocarbons.
"A lot of people came with their garrafones with the lack of gasoline right now that there is not," says Martín Trejo, another 55-year-old neighbor, who attributes what happened to the national strategy to prevent the theft, which includes the closure of important oil pipelines.
Local media showed images of men and women looting it while fuel was being shot in jets.
Later, they were seen in the middle of the night fleeing from terror and screaming for help.
Some came out practically naked and with visible burns on their bodies.
"The explosion at Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo, resulted from the manipulation of a clandestine acquisition for the theft of fuel in the Tuxpan-Tula pipeline, which does not affect the supply of gasoline to Mexico City," said Petróleos Mexicanos . Pemex).
This pipeline is one of the main targets of looters, who unload it again every time they try to resume their operation, explained the director of Pemex, Octavio Romero.
The company also reported that it had treated another fire with the hiring of illegal immigrants in a deserted area of the state of Querétaro (in the center), so there was no risk to the population.
– Offensive against "huachicol" –
The plan against fuel theft, popularly known as "huachicol", is the first major offensive against the crime of López Obrador since he took office on December 1.
In recent days, he has repeatedly warned the population not to risk or become an accomplice of this activity.
The crime has caused the country's annual losses of about 3,000 million dollars in 2017 and 2018, according to official data.
The closure of the pipelines has been alleviated by distribution in tanks, a system that has caused fuel shortages in a dozen of the 32 states that make up Mexico.
Miles have been recorded in areas where fuel is lacking, even if it has been regularized in the capital.
Economic analysts have warned that this deficiency causes a drop in productivity that will have an impact on the economy.
The Citibanamex bank, one of the largest in the country, estimated Wednesday at 39,000 million pesos ($ 2,054 million) the gross loss of GDP attributed to fuel shortages, "assuming the conditions return to normal in the coming days."