MEXICO CITY – The death toll from the explosion caused by the illegal tapping of a fuel pipeline last week in Tlahuelilpan, a town in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo, has risen to 93, officials said Tuesday.
“Continuing with this important but sad census, (on Monday) we have 89 deceased patients and 51 hospitalized. In recent hours, four more have died,” bringing the total to 93 deaths, Health Secretary Jorge Alcocer said.
Thus, the current number of hospitalized patients has been reduced to 46, since four have died and another person with burns was transferred to Shrines Hospital for Children in Galveston, Texas, Alcocer said.
The health secretary said that the government is going to implement a plan to prevent people who steal fuel in carboys in certain communities from reusing those containers to store water for human consumption, given that the fuel is very toxic.
The blast occurred Friday night, hours after residents of the small town of Tlahuelilpan gathered near a pipeline to collect fuel after thieves drilled a hole in the duct.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been waging a battle against the illegal trade in stolen fuel since taking office late last year, a crackdown that has caused widespread shortages at service stations.
Stealing fuel from pipelines owned by state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) and re-selling it on the black market has become a major criminal enterprise in Mexico.
Theft of fuel from pipelines cost Mexico some $3.4 billion last year, the government says.
Since his Dec. 1 inauguration, Lopez Obrador has launched an all-out fight against this crime.
The president has deployed thousands of security forces members to bolster security at pipelines.
The administration also adopted a change in Pemex’s method for shipping gasoline and diesel from refineries to urban distribution centers, opting to transport more fuel via tanker trucks instead of pipelines.
The change has caused severe supply problems in at least 10 states and Mexico City, and led to the closing of service stations, panic purchases and attempts to sabotage pipelines.