The death toll from Friday’s fuel pipeline explosion in central Mexico has climbed to 73, the governor of the country’s Hidalgo state said.
Governor Omar Fayad also said Saturday at a news conference in Mexico City that at least 74 others were injured.
A leak and the resulting blast were caused by fuel thieves illegally tapping into a gas pipeline in Hidalgo state, officials said.
Video footage showed the fuel gushing into the air and people collecting gas in buckets, garbage cans and other containers before the explosion.
A number of people at the scene told Reuters that local shortages in gasoline supply since Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador launched a drive to stamp out fuel theft had encouraged the rush to the gushing pipeline.
“Everyone came to see if they could get a bit of gasoline for their car, there isn’t any in the gas stations,” said farmer Isaias Garcia, 50. Garcia was at the site with two neighbors, but waited in the car some distance away. “Some people came out burning and screaming,” he added.
Fayad said the condition of many of the injured was deteriorating, and that some had burns on much of their body. Some of the most badly injured minors could be moved for medical attention in Galveston, Texas, he added.
“I urge the entire population not to be complicit in fuel theft,” Fayad said. “Apart from being illegal, it puts your life and those of your families at risk.”
Lopez Obrador, who has launched a crackdown on fuel theft, called on “the entire government” to assist the people at the site of the explosion.
The government says fuel theft costs the country about $3 billion a year.