A leaking fuel pipeline that authorities claim had been illegally tapped erupted in a massive explosion Friday in Mexico's central Hidalgo state, resulting in at least 66 deaths, Hidalgo state Gov. Omar Fayad said.
In an early morning press conference on Saturday, Mr Lopez Obrador vowed to continue the fight against the billion-dollar illegal fuel theft industry. "There are many injured". Immediately prior to the explosion, Mexico's secretary of defense sent troops to the scene where over 800 people had joined in the mass theft.
The accident is one of the worst tragedies caused by pipeline explosions in Mexico in recent years.
Federal and state firefighters and ambulances run by state oil company Pemex rushed to help victims with burns and take the wounded to hospitals.
Locals were collecting the spilling petrol in buckets and rubbish bins when the fuel ignited on Friday, officials said.
Mexico City residents faced a second week of fuel shortages this week, though lines at service stations were shorter than the previous week.
A forensic technician works at the site where a fuel pipeline ruptured by suspected oil thieves exploded, in the municipality of Tlahuelilpan, state of Hidalgo, Mexico on January 19, 2019.
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Lopez Obrador has said his decision to close pipelines has greatly reduced fuel theft, but the death toll has raised questions about potential unintended consequences.
The Tula-Tuxpan pipeline delivers fuel to other central states, raising the possibility that its closure for repairs after the explosion could worsen fuel supply problems, including in auto hub Guanajuato.
"I urge the entire population not to be complicit in fuel theft", saidHidalgo Governor Fayad.
He urged people not to steal fuel, as it could put their lives at risk.
"I think if there had been gas in the gas stations, many of these people wouldn't have been here", Calva Martinez said while holding a picture of her brothers. The country's public security minister reportedly said the troops had arrived at the scene to secure the pipeline, but withdrew because of the size of the crowd.
Lopez Obrador said on Sunday that the disaster had not weakened his resolve to fight fuel theft.
Responding to questions about why fuel kept flowing from the leak up until the explosion, Lopez Obrador said that 10,000 barrels of gasoline were accumulated in the pipeline between the Tula refinery and the village.