Oil pipeline explosion kills 27 in central Mexico

Monday, December 20, 2010

The explosion of an oil pipeline in San Martín Texmelucan de Labastida in central Mexico has killed at least 27 individuals and injured 56 others. Twelve of the dead are children. Over 100 homes were damaged and at least 30 of them were destroyed. The explosion had an estimated blast radius of three miles.

Describing exploding gas tanks that flew through the air, Carlos Hipolito, who fled the scene with approximately 60 relatives, described the incident to Milenio Television as a "catastrophe". Living ten blocks from where the explosion occurred, 58-year-old Jose Luis Chavez explained that he had heard a minimum of two loud explosions and witnessed flames rising over 10 meters (30 feet) into the air.

It is thought that at the Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) pumping station where the incident occurred, a gang of criminals were attempting to illegally tap crude oil from the pipeline when they punctured it. Valentin Meneses, Puebla state interior secretary, stated: "They lost control because of the high pressure with which the fuel exits the pipeline."

Pemex has explained that the theft of oil from the pipelines causes them to lose hundreds of millions of dollars every year. Juan José Suárez Coppel, the head of the company, stated that the pipeline section near to the location of the blast was tapped illegally on 60 occasions. He also reported that across Mexico, 550 cases of illegal tapping had occurred.

Expressing his condolences to the families of those that had died because of this incident, Mexican president Felipe Calderon stated that the federal government is to launch an investigation to try to establish the identities of the offenders and apprehend them.