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Death toll rises to 93 in Mexico pipeline explosion

By
Darryl Coote
Citizens search for the remains of victims who died in a gasoline pipeline explosion in Tlahuelilpan, Mexico, on Saturday. Photo by MLA/EPA-EFE
Citizens search for the remains of victims who died in a gasoline pipeline explosion in Tlahuelilpan, Mexico, on Saturday. Photo by MLA/EPA-EFE

Jan. 22 (UPI) -- The death toll from last Friday's pipeline explosion in central Mexico has risen to 93.

The number of dead has continued to climb as victims succumb to their injuries, Mexican health minister Jorge Alcocer Varela said Tuesday in a press conference, News 4 Europe reported.

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"Continuing with this important but sad census, we [had] 89 deceased patients and 51 hospitalized. In recent hours, four more have died," Alcocer Varela said.

Forty-six are still in the hospital and a child was transferred to a Texas facility.

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The Friday blast occurred as people tried to illegally steal fuel from the Tuxpan-Tula pipeline. Between 600 and 800 people were at the site in Tlahuelilpan, about 80 miles north of Mexico City, with containers to collect the fuel.

Mexico's attorney general will conduct an investigation into the blast, which is one of the deadliest the country has seen in recent years, Xinhua reported.

The explosion occurred as the country struggles to deal with ongoing gas shortages that have seen some 80 percent of all gas stations in Guadalajara closed, Mexico News Daily reported. The federal government said shortages in more than 10 states are the result of President Andres Manual Lopez Obrador's attempt to clamp down on rampant gasoline theft.

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Since taking office Dec. 1, Lopez Obrador has deployed thousands of army and police officers and closed several pipelines as part of the crackdown.

However, gasoline theft is still happening. A pipeline running to Salamanca, Guanajuato and Guadalajara reopened Sunday and was illegally tapped three times that day.

A study by Pemex in October said several criminal and drug trafficking organizations -- as well as communities, fuel pump owners and ex-employees of the state oil company -- have stolen fuel.

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The country lost some $3.4 billion in 2018 from fuel theft.

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