A pre-dawn explosion along the state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos pipeline on Sunday in the central Mexican town of Texmelucan killed 27 people, wounded dozens of others and destroyed more than 30 homes in the area, local officials said.
AFP - A massive pipeline blast killed 27 people in central Mexico on Sunday, engulfing dozens of homes in a raging inferno that one official described as "rivers of fire in the streets."
Hundreds ran for cover as the explosion ripped through the town of Texmelucan before dawn, an accident apparently caused by thieves trying to siphon off fuel from the Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) pipeline.
The heat of the flames was so intense it twisted wrought iron grilles, shattered glass windows and doors and reduced cars to smoldering metal shells.
Scorched trees reached upwards from the smoking earth, and firemen shoveled the thick coat of ash that littered the streets.
"A criminal gang punctured the pipeline of state-owned Pemex, which spilled fuel out of control because of the high degree of pressure," said Puebla state secretary Valentin Meneses.
"The streets began to flood, then came a spark and we saw rivers of fire in the streets."
Top civil protection official Laura Gurza said 52 people were injured and 32 homes completely destroyed by the blaze, which was eventually extinguished by emergency crews.
Another 83 homes were damaged and Interior Minister Francisco Blake warned that the toll could rise as he toured the scene, stepping carefully through the baked debris with rescuers.
A cloud of thick black smoke hung over the scene, where stunned residents who had rushed from their homes, some clutching infants, clogged the roadsides outside Texmelucan, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) southeast of Mexico City.
Among the victims, five children and an entire family were caught by surprise by the explosion as they slept in their home. The ash-covered bodies of four other victims lay inside a burnt-out house.
Hundreds of people were evacuated to shelters as emergency workers, tanker trucks and water pumps fought a raging fire. Officials worried the fuel may have spilled into the nearby Atoyac River.
Smoke could be seen as far as the the state capital Puebla, more than 30 kilometers (20 miles) away. Emergency officials said the blast broke windows and burned cars in a three-kilometer (two-mile) radius.
Locals said criminal gangs operate drilling machinery and sell stolen fuel to truck drivers passing through roads in the region.
Rescue workers, firefighters and Mexican soldiers were deployed to the region to respond to the emergency.
Pemex experts also arrived on site to help determine the cause of the explosion.
The company issued a statement saying the blast was caused by "fire on two pipelines," whose fuel supply was immediately cut off.
A September fire at a Pemex refinery in northwestern Cadereyta left two workers dead.
The theft of fuel from Mexican oil pipelines has been on the rise in recent years, causing an average loss of 10 billion pesos (800 million dollars) per year, according to the authorities.
Date created : 2010-12-19