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Death toll from Mexico's oil disaster rises to 79

THE death toll from Friday’s catastrophic conflagration at a tapped pipeline in Mexico reached 79 yesterday, with another 81 hospitalised.

State oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) said the pipeline, which supplies much of central Mexico with fuel, had just reopened after being shut since December 23, having been breached 10 times over three months.

Once again thieves breached it on Friday and petrol was gushing 20 feet in the air as locals gathered to scoop up free oil.

But it ignited and caused a conflagration that burned people to cinders. Locals searching for relatives found heaps of corpses, most with all their skin burnt off. Dozens had been burned down to the bone or even ash.

The tragedy came just three weeks after President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (Amlo) launched an offensive against fuel-theft gangs who had drilled dangerous illegal taps into pipelines an astounding 12,581 times in the first 10 months of 2018, an average of about 42 per day.

The crackdown has led to widespread fuel shortages at gas stations throughout the country as Pemex altered distribution, both legal and illicit. The shortages at stations was one reason hundreds had flocked to the field in Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo state, looking for petrol.

Amlo pledged yesterday to continue the fight against a practice that steals about $3 billion (£2.3bn) worth of fuel each year.

“Mexico needs to end corruption,” he said. “This is not negotiable.”

He said he would offer financial aid to communities along pipelines that have become somewhat dependent on income from fuel theft rings.

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