(Editor’s Note: Although the mainstream news obviously covered this, it didn’t get much attention. These pipelines are so dangerous for our environment. And in this case, the people as well. And while we understand that the explosion was due to an illegally drilled hole, pipelines burst on their own all the time. How much damage are we going to let them do to our waterways and land before we realize it’s just not worth it?)
Last Friday, a leak from an illegal tap into the pipeline in a small town in the state of Hidalgo, north of Mexico City, exploded, according to state oil company Pemex.
“Just a few feet from where the pipeline passed through an alfalfa field, the dead seem to have fallen in heaps, perhaps as they stumbled over each other or tried to help one another in the moments after a geyser of gasoline shot into the air Friday.”1
There were so many casualties because people from the village of Tlahuelilpan were collecting the spilling gasoline, in buckets and garbage cans, when it exploded.
On Saturday, Hidalgo Gov. Omar Fayad announced that at least 66 people were dead, 76 had been badly burned and another 85 were missing.
“The tragedy came just three weeks after new President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador launched an offensive against fuel theft gangs that have drilled dangerous, illegal taps into pipelines an astounding 12,581 times in the first 10 months of 2018, an average of about 42 per day.
In a press conference Saturday, Lopez Obrador vowed to continue the fight against the $3 billion-per-year illegal fuel theft industry.
‘We are going to eradicate that which not only causes material damages, it is not only what the nation loses by this illegal trade, this black market of fuel, but the risk, the danger, the loss of human lives,’ he said.”1
That particular part of the pipeline carries fuel from the Gulf coast to Tula (a city just north of Mexico City). According to Hidalgo state police, the leak was reported around 5:00 p.m. local time and within two hours burst into flames.
Fuel theft gangs have been able to win the loyalty of entire neighborhoods by giving away free gas. But it comes at a cost; local residents will then act as lookouts and confront military patrols carrying out raids against the gangs. We shall see if this tragedy will make residents think twice about illegal pipeline taps.