Disasters & Accidents

Death toll climbs in Mexico pipeline blasts

Puebla, Mexico, Nov 9 (EFE).- The number of fatalities from a series of explosions caused by an attempt to steal fuel from a pipeline in this central Mexico city rose to three Tuesday with the death of a 17-year-old woman, authorities said.

The latest victim, identified only as Andrea, succumbed to her injuries 10 days after the blasts at a pipeline operated by state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) in Puebla’s San Pablo Xochimehuacan district.

One person was declared dead at the scene on the morning of Oct. 31 and a second died a few days later at the hospital.

“Andrea had burns over 32 percent of her body and burns in her airway. She presented with multiple organ failure,” Puebla state Health Secretary Jose Antonio Martinez told a press conference.

Two other blast patients, a 19-year-old woman and a boy of 6 who had second-and-third-degree burns over 22 percent of his body, were released from the hospital on Tuesday, the official said.

Seven of the nine people who remain hospitalized with injuries suffered in the pipeline explosions are in serious condition, Martinez said.

The blasts also left more than 50 nearby homes badly damaged and forced the temporary evacuation of 2,000 people.

By the middle of the 2010s, tapping into pipelines to steal fuel for sale on the black market had become a lucrative racket in Mexico.

The “huachicoleros,” as the fuel thieves are known, were costing the Mexican economy around $5 billion a year before the crackdown launched by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador shortly after taking office in December 2018.

The practice of tapping into the pipelines is inherently dangerous and an explosion on the night of Jan. 18, 2019, hours after hundreds of residents of the town of Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo state, gathered near a pipeline to collect fuel after thieves had drilled a hole in the duct, left 137 people dead and dozens of others injured. EFE ggg/dr

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