MEXICO CITY — The death toll has risen to 71 from a grisly explosion at an illegal pipeline tap in central Mexico that occurred amid government efforts to curb widespread fuel theft.
Ernesto Sierra, a representative for families of the victims at the accident site, says five more bodies_just bones_have been found half-buried inside a pit were gasoline had pooled around the fissure in the pipeline.
Hidalgo state Gov. Omar Fayad confirmed the updated body count in an interview with Mexico’s ForoTV.
Municipal health director Jorge Aguilar Lopez said: “What happened here should serve as an example for the whole nation to unite behind the fight that the president is carrying out against this ill.”
Video footage showed dozens of residents in an almost festive atmosphere as whole families gathered in a field as a geyser of fuel spouted dozens of feet into the air from the tap.
Footage then showed flames shooting high into the air against a night sky and the pipeline ablaze. Screaming people ran from the flames, some themselves burning and waving their arms.
The tragedy came just three weeks after new President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador launched an offensive against fuel theft gangs drilling dangerous, illegal taps into pipelines an astounding 12,581 times in the first 10 months of 2018, an average of about 42 per day.
It is now likely to further intensify efforts to crack down on the illegal taps and focus attention on Lopez Obrador’s fight against the $3 billion per-year illegal fuel theft industry.