Witnesses describe Mexico's oil explosion as the death toll jumps to 73 after gas thieves burst pipe

The death toll in an explosion of a Mexican oil pipeline rose to Saturday night after a horror fireball flooded a crowd collecting petrol from an illegal pipeline, burning their skin and reducing some bodies to ashes.

On Saturday mornings, forensic experts tried to separate roughly heaps and count after the massive fireball erupted in a small town in the central state of Hidalgo in Mexico.

Hidalgo Governor Omar Fayad said 73 people were killed and 74 people were injured in the explosion, which happened while residents crawled to get buckets and drums gaining momentum at the pipeline whose authorities said they had risen to seven meters high .

Just a few feet from where the pipeline ran through an alfalfa pocket, the dead seemed to have fallen in hopes, perhaps because they were stumbling over each other or trying to help each other on the moments when a gasoline geyser shot in the air on Friday.

Relatives of a victim cry at the recognition of the body of a loved one after an explosion in a pipeline of the Mexican oil company PEMEX in Tlahuelilpan, Mexico

Relatives of a victim cry at the recognition of the body of a loved one after an explosion in a pipeline of the Mexican oil company PEMEX in Tlahuelilpan, Mexico

Aerial view of the scene where a huge fire was caused by an illegal pipeline crane in Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo

Aerial view of the scene where a huge fire was caused by an illegal pipeline crane in Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo

Aerial view of the scene where a huge fire was caused by an illegal pipeline crane in Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo

People gather at the site of a torn pipeline in Mexico on Friday prior to an explosion that killed at least 73 people

People gather at the site of a torn pipeline in Mexico on Friday prior to an explosion that killed at least 73 people

People gather at the site of a torn pipeline in Mexico on Friday prior to an explosion that killed at least 73 people

Hidalgo Attorney General Raul Arroyo said that 54 bodies were so badly burned that they could take a long time to identify.

Local journalist Veronica Jimenez, 46, came on the scene before the explosion, where she said there were more than 300 people with containers to collect fuel.

& # 39; I saw families: mother, father, children & # 39 ;, she told Reuters. & # 39; It was like a party … you could hear how happy people were. & # 39;

When the explosion hit, people ran in different directions, begged for help, some burned and without clothing, she said.

& # 39; The skin of some people came off … it was very ugly, terrible, people shouted and cried, & # 39; she said. They shouted the names of their husbands, brothers, their relatives. & # 39;

One witness described how an almost festive atmosphere between hundreds of residents of the city filled containers of spilled fuel to horror as the explosion spread the crowd in all directions, burned clothing and suffered severe burns.

A few people on the spot told Reuters that local gas shortages since Lopez Obrador had attempted to eradicate fuel theft, encouraged the rush to the flowing pipeline.

People wait for a wall of fire after an explosion of an illegal tap on the pipeline of the Mexican oil company Pemex in Tlahuilipan

People wait for a wall of fire after an explosion of an illegal tap on the pipeline of the Mexican oil company Pemex in Tlahuilipan

People wait for a wall of fire after an explosion of an illegal tap on the pipeline of the Mexican oil company Pemex in Tlahuilipan

People watch the fire on the scene of a huge fire from a fuel line on Friday night

People watch the fire on the scene of a huge fire from a fuel line on Friday night

People watch the fire on the scene of a huge fire from a fuel line on Friday night

Everyone came to see if they could get a little petrol for their car, there is nothing in the service stations, said farmer Isaias Garcia, 50. Garcia was at the location with two neighbors, but waited in the car what Far away.

& # 39; Some people came burning and screaming, & # 39; he added.

Health officials took DNA samples from immediate family members at the local community center in Tlahuelilpan to help with identification. Outside a long, chilling list of missing people was stuck on a window.

Wrapped in a blanket Hugo Olvera Estrada said he had gone to six nearby hospitals in search of his 13-year-old son, who had joined the fuel spill. He has not been seen since.

& # 39; Yes, no, where is my son? & # 39; he wailed.

Soldiers stand guard for a wall of fire after an explosion of an illegal tap on the pipeline of the Mexican oil company Pemex

Soldiers stand guard for a wall of fire after an explosion of an illegal tap on the pipeline of the Mexican oil company Pemex

Soldiers stand guard for a wall of fire after an explosion of an illegal tap on the pipeline of the Mexican oil company Pemex

Firefighters work to put out the fire on the site of a huge pipeline in Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo

Firefighters work to put out the fire on the site of a huge pipeline in Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo

Firefighters work to put out the fire on the site of a huge pipeline in Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo

Soldiers guard the area by an explosion of an oil pipeline in Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo, Mexico on Friday evening

Soldiers guard the area by an explosion of an oil pipeline in Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo, Mexico on Friday evening

Soldiers guard the area by an explosion of an oil pipeline in Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo, Mexico on Friday evening

The leak was caused by an illegal pipeline crane in the small town of Tlahuelilpan, about 62 miles north of Mexico City, according to state-owned oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex.

Hidalgo state police said the leak was first reported at about 5 pm Central.

Video footage from before the explosion showed dozens of people in an almost festive atmosphere gathered in a field where a tube was broken by fuel thieves.

Two hours later, the pipeline burst into flames. The canal transports fuel, apparently petrol, from the Gulf Coast to the area of ​​Mexico City.

The government said that soldiers appeared on the scene after Pemex discovered the illegal tap, but could not secure the area before the explosion.

"There were too many people at one point and the military and military personnel withdrew to prevent problems," said the public security secretary, Alfonso Durazo, against television channel Televisa. It was just when they withdrew that the explosion was taking place. & # 39;

The soldiers had been ordered not to come into contact with fuel thieves for fear that an escalation could result in the shooting of unarmed civilians or soldiers being beaten by a crowd.

The Mexican Secretary of Defense, Luis Cresencio, said: "We do not want such a confrontation."

Members of the Mexican army work on the site of a pipeline explosion in the municipality of Tlahuelilpan, in the state of Hidalgo

Members of the Mexican army work on the site of a pipeline explosion in the municipality of Tlahuelilpan, in the state of Hidalgo

Members of the Mexican army work on the site of a pipeline explosion in the municipality of Tlahuelilpan, in the state of Hidalgo

Relief workers work at the site of a pipeline explosion in the municipality of Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo, Mexico on Saturday

Relief workers work at the site of a pipeline explosion in the municipality of Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo, Mexico on Saturday

Relief workers work at the site of a pipeline explosion in the municipality of Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo, Mexico on Saturday

Mexican soldiers deployed on the site of a huge pipeline bomb that killed at least 73 people who collected fuel from a leak

Mexican soldiers deployed on the site of a huge pipeline bomb that killed at least 73 people who collected fuel from a leak

Mexican soldiers deployed on the site of a huge pipeline bomb that killed at least 73 people who collected fuel from a leak

A resident of the Hidalgo state in Mexico said that citizens ignored the warnings of soldiers to stay away from the gasoline geyser before it exploded.

Gerardo Perez Gutierrez said: & # 39; We are stubborn. & # 39;

Perez said he returned Saturday to the scorched field where the massive fireball broke out at the illegal pipeline.

He tried to see if he could recognize bodies, but only a handful of the remains still had skin. Dozens of corpses were burned to the bone.

Perez says that he and his son also bypassed the soldiers on Friday. But as he approached the spouting fuel, he was overcome by a sense of disaster.

& # 39; Let's go, & # 39; he remembers to tell his son. & # 39; This thing is going to explode. & # 39; The couple walked without looking back, he says.

Image showed flames high in the sky against a night sky and the pipeline burning.

Screaming people ran away from the explosion, some of them burned and waved their arms.

On Saturday, several people were dead on their backs, their arms stretched out.

Some seemed to have covered their coffins in a final attempt to protect themselves from the flames; a few black-charred bodies seemed to embrace each other in death.

Lost shoes were scattered over the scorched field, just like plastic jugs and jerry cans that had taken the victims to collect fuel.

& # 39; Yes, no, where is my son? & # 39; cried Hugo Olvera Estrada, whose 13-year-old son, Hugo Olvera Bautista, was on the spot where the fire broke out. Wrapped in a blanket outside a clinic, the man had already been to six local hospitals in search of his child.

Staff of Pemex, Petroleos Mexicanos, working in the field of an oil pipeline explosion in Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo on Saturday

Staff of Pemex, Petroleos Mexicanos, working in the field of an oil pipeline explosion in Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo on Saturday

Staff of Pemex, Petroleos Mexicanos, working in the field of an oil pipeline explosion in Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo on Saturday

A giant fireball that flooded people and scooped fuel from a pipeline torn by thieves in central Mexico, killed at least 73 people and burned others heavily. Pemex employees see the scene work

A giant fireball that flooded people and scooped fuel from a pipeline torn by thieves in central Mexico, killed at least 73 people and burned others heavily. Pemex employees see the scene work

A giant fireball that flooded people and scooped fuel from a pipeline torn by thieves in central Mexico, killed at least 73 people and burned others heavily. Pemex employees see the scene work

A group of rescuers waits for the site of a huge fire that broke out at an illegal pipeline in central Mexico

A group of rescuers waits for the site of a huge fire that broke out at an illegal pipeline in central Mexico

A group of rescuers waits for the site of a huge fire that broke out at an illegal pipeline in central Mexico

A wounded person is transferred to a helicopter near the town of Tepotzotlan, after a leaking gas pipe caused a fire

A wounded person is transferred to a helicopter near the town of Tepotzotlan, after a leaking gas pipe caused a fire

A wounded person is transferred to a helicopter near the town of Tepotzotlan, after a leaking gas pipe caused a fire

After returning from high school yesterday, his father told me, the boy went to the crowd to get petrol. Olvera Estrada believed that he was influenced by older and supposedly wise men from the city of about 20,000. & # 39; The older men have brought him, & # 39; he said.

The tragedy came just three weeks after the new president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called an offensive against dryer groups who have drilled dangerous, illegal cranes in pipelines at an astounding 12,581 times in the first 10 months of 2018, an average of about 42 per day.

In a conference early in the morning on Saturday, Lopez Obrador promised to continue the fight against the industry for illegal fuel theft of $ 3 billion a year.

"Far from stopping the fight … against fuel theft, it will become stronger, we will continue until we have eradicated these practices," said Lopez Obrador.

We are going to eradicate that which not only causes material damage, it is not only what the nation loses from this illegal trade, this black market of fuel, but the risk, the danger, the loss of human lives, & # 39; he said.

Villagers quarrel with the army to let them go in search of their missing relatives after an explosion in a pipeline of the Mexican oil company PEMEX in Tlahuelilpan, Mexico

Villagers quarrel with the army to let them go in search of their missing relatives after an explosion in a pipeline of the Mexican oil company PEMEX in Tlahuelilpan, Mexico

Villagers quarrel with the army to let them go in search of their missing relatives after an explosion in a pipeline of the Mexican oil company PEMEX in Tlahuelilpan, Mexico

Forensic technicians work at the location where a fuel line broke up by suspected oil thieves exploded

Forensic technicians work at the location where a fuel line broke up by suspected oil thieves exploded

Forensic technicians work at the location where a fuel line broke up by suspected oil thieves exploded

A forensic technician removes a body from the location where a fuel line broke up by suspected oil thieves exploded

A forensic technician removes a body from the location where a fuel line broke up by suspected oil thieves exploded

A forensic technician removes a body from the location where a fuel line broke up by suspected oil thieves exploded

The tragedy came just three weeks after the new President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador launched an offensive against fuel thefts. Pictured above, forensic engineers remove bodies from the scene of the explosion

The tragedy came just three weeks after the new President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador launched an offensive against fuel thefts. Pictured above, forensic engineers remove bodies from the scene of the explosion

The tragedy came just three weeks after the new President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador launched an offensive against fuel thefts. Pictured above, forensic engineers remove bodies from the scene of the explosion

A forensic technician tagged a body at the location where a fuel line broke up by suspected oil thieves exploded

A forensic technician tagged a body at the location where a fuel line broke up by suspected oil thieves exploded

A forensic technician tagged a body at the location where a fuel line broke up by suspected oil thieves exploded

Forensic technicians worked grimly on Saturday morning, labeling bodies and removing them from the area

Forensic technicians worked grimly on Saturday morning, labeling bodies and removing them from the area

Forensic technicians worked grimly on Saturday morning, labeling bodies and removing them from the area

The war against fuel theft was a theme that was repeated by people in Tlahuelilpan, which is crossed by pipelines and is only a few miles from a refinery.

"What has happened here, should serve as an example for the entire nation to unite behind the fight that the President is waging against this sick person," said municipal officer Jorge Aguilar Lopez.

Another pipeline erupted earlier Friday in the neighboring state of Queretaro as a result of another illegal tick. Pemex said that the fire near the city of San Juan del Rio was in an unpopulated area and that there is no risk to people. & # 39;

In December 2010, authorities also blamed oil thieves for a pipeline explosion in a central Mexico near the capital that killed 28 people, including 13 children.

That blast burned people and scorched homes, with 5,000 residents in an area of ​​about six miles wide in San Martin Texmelucan.

Lopez Obrador launched the offensive against illegal cranes shortly after taking office on December 1, where 3,200 marines were deployed to guard pipelines and refineries.

Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (middle) arrives early in Tlahuelilpan on Saturday after a leaking gas pipeline caused a fire in the state of Hidalgo, Mexico

Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (middle) arrives early in Tlahuelilpan on Saturday after a leaking gas pipeline caused a fire in the state of Hidalgo, Mexico

Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (middle) arrives early in Tlahuelilpan on Saturday after a leaking gas pipeline caused a fire in the state of Hidalgo, Mexico

Obrador's controversial government crackdown on stealing fuel has led to severe gasoline and diesel scarcity in much of the country. Seen on Friday, the cars are at a Pemex station in Jalisco, amid the fuel shortage

Obrador's controversial government crackdown on stealing fuel has led to severe gasoline and diesel scarcity in much of the country. Seen on Friday, the cars are at a Pemex station in Jalisco, amid the fuel shortage

Obrador's controversial government crackdown on stealing fuel has led to severe gasoline and diesel scarcity in much of the country. Seen on Friday, the cars are at a Pemex station in Jalisco, amid the fuel shortage

His administration also switched pipelines to detect and discourage illegal cranes, more dependent on the supply of fuel by tanker. However, there are not enough trucks and long queues at petrol stations have plagued several states.

In Tlahuelilpan a long, chilling list of missing people was recorded outside the window of the local clinic, where dozens of family members were waiting for news in their search for loved ones.

Marciel Cervantes fears that his brother, Isaac Aurelio Cervantes, is one of those who was lost during Friday's explosion. He discovered that the 26-year-old's car was parked on the road next to the field and said his brother had not answered his mobile.

& # 39; People already know what they are doing, & # 39; he said, wrapping a blanket tightly against the cold. & # 39; But they do not understand it. & # 39;

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