At least 21 people were killed in central Mexico after a ruptured gasoline pipeline blew up Friday evening, the governor of the state of Hidalgo said.
Hidalgo Gov. Omar Fayad said at least 71 others were injured after a explosion in Tlahuelilpan, a town about 80 miles north of Mexico City.
The fire is still burning, Fayad said.
In a statement, state oil company Pemex said the explosion was caused by illegal taps in the pipeline. Fayad called on the community to not steal gasoline.
Residents who live in the immediate vicinity of the pipeline, which runs from the cities of Tuxpan to Tula in the state of Veracruz, have been evacuated, Pemex said in the statement.
Pemex also noted the explosion would not impact gasoline distribution in Mexico City.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador tweeted that he was briefed on the explosion.
“I’m very sorry for the serious situation in Tlahuelilpan due to a pipeline explosion. I’m in Aguascalientes and since the director of Pemex and the defense secretary briefed me, I gave instructions to contain the fire and treat the victims,” López Obrador wrote.
The explosion comes as gas stations in several Mexican states and the country’s capital have been running dry for nearly two weeks. The president’s administration closed several key pipelines in an effort to crack down on fuel theft, which he said cost the country an estimated $3 billion last year.
Drivers in Mexico have grown desperate. Family members take turns waiting in long lines for gas. Some comb social media for clues about which stations are open. Others have simply decided to leave their cars at home.
Pemex said the new gas distribution system will have long-term benefits that outweigh any short-term cost.
Authorities have blamed fuel theft for previous explosions in Mexico. In 2010, a pipeline blew up in the state of Puebla, leaving 28 people dead and scores injured.
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