Mexico Pipeline Blast Death Toll Climbs to 66

The military were called to the pipeline before it exploded into flames

At least 66 people were killed in a gas pipeline explosion in Central Mexico Friday night, the governor of the country's Hidalgo state said Saturday.

Pipeline owner Petróleos Mexicanos (Mexican Petroleum) known as Pemex, says "The explosion in Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo was derived from the manipulation of a clandestine takeover for fuel theft in the Tuxpan-Tula pipeline".

Fuel theft gangs have hit back, winning the loyalty of impoverished neighbourhoods with the promise of free gasoline and getting local residents to act as lookouts and confront military patrols.

At a news conference with Lopez Obrador, Hidalgo State Governor Omar Fayad said 66 people were killed and 76 people injured in the explosion, which happened as residents scrambled to get buckets and drums to a gush at the pipeline that authorities said rose up to 23 feet (7 meters) high.

Separate television footage showed the pipeline gushing a fountain of fuel earlier in the day and dozens of people at the site trying to fill buckets and plastic containers. The Mexican president also said that he was in contact with local authorities and that he had instructed them to gain control of the fire and help the victims.

"Some people came out burning and screaming", he added.

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Jayme said she thought her kidnapper drove a Ford , which led the deputy to call for backup and run the vehicle's license plate. She told investigators that she was often forced under her captor's bed and blocked in by weights.

"Apart from being illegal, it puts your life and those of your families at risk".

The López Obrador administration closed key pipelines in an effort to crack down on fuel theft, which the Mexican leader said cost the country an estimated $3 billion previous year.

Hidalgo state police said the leak was first reported at about 5pm local time. Earlier this month, Mexico's new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, closed numerous country's pipelines, saddling dozens of cities with an acute gasoline shortage.

"A lot of people arrived with their jerry cans, because of the gasoline shortages we've had", said Martin Trejo, 55, who was desperately searching for his son, one of those who had gone to collect the leaking fuel. Thousands of marines have been deployed to guard pipelines and transport has been shut down altogether in places.

Lopez Obrador launched an offensive against fuel theft after taking office December 1. But there are not enough trucks, and long lines at gas stations have plagued several states.

Taking to Twitter, he said: "I urge the entire population not to be complicit in fuel theft. What happened today in Tlahuelilpan should not be repeated", he wrote on Twitter.

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