According to local media reports, a ruptured pipeline exploded on Friday, killing at least 20 and injuring dozens of others who were trying to fill containers with stolen fuel. The incident reportedly occurred hours after the thieves drilled an illegal tap into the steel tube.
"The preliminary report I've been passed is very serious; they're telling me 20 people have died, charred, and that 54 are injured, burned," Hidalgo State Governor Omar Fayad told Mexican television on Friday, as quoted by Reuters.
Later in the day, Omar Fayad tweeted that at least 60 people were seriously hurt after the pipeline exploded.
Mexican Secretary for Public Safety Alfonso Durazo told local reporters on Friday that a National Emergency Committee had been formed in order to help the affected people.
WARNING: The following footage is graphic and may offend sensibilities
En el municipio de #Tlahuelilpan #Hidalgo explotó toma clandestina de hidrocarburos, con personas quemadas. Todavía no se precisa si hubo muertos.— GC NOTICIAS (@GuillermoCinta) 19 января 2019 г.
Dos fotos: https://t.co/MyI8GFjEam pic.twitter.com/SBWEpljjEY
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has launched a crackdown on fuel theft. According to Reuters, the local authorities estimate that the country has lost more than $3 billion last year due to rampant gasoline theft.
Minutos antes de las 7 de la noche ya se reportaba en redes sociales la fuga de combustible en Tlahuelilpan, #Hidalgo.— Monica Garza (@monicagarzag) 19 января 2019 г.
Pobladores con bidones estaban en el lugar recogiendo el combustible con bidones y otros recipientes. pic.twitter.com/EegpDhVKMX
Meanwhile, fuel shortages have been reported in at least 10 of Mexico's 31 states over past several days, prompting authorities in a number of localities to take special measures. The shortages were reportedly caused by the government's crackdown on huachicoleros, criminals who specialise in illegally tapping pipelines to steal fuel.
In this regard, Lopez Obrador said that the security of all six major pipelines running through the territory of the country with a total length of 1,600 kilometres (994 miles), must be enhanced.
According to AP, thieves drilled about 12,581 illegal taps in the first 10 months of 2018 and the country has deployed 3,200 servicemen to guard pipelines and local refineries.
Meanwhile, local media reported that another pipeline had exploded in the state of Queretaro. However, there have been no reports on casualties as a result of the incident.