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Death toll in Mexico pipeline fire rises to 93

January 22, 2019
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People carry the coffin of a victim of the gas pipeline that exploded in the village of Tlahuelilpan, Mexico, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019. A massive fireball that engulfed locals scooping up fuel spilling from a pipeline ruptured by thieves in central Mexico killed dozens of people and badly burned dozens more on Jan. 18. An image of Our Lady of Guadalupe decorates the coffin. (AP Photo/Claudio Cruz)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The death toll in a massive fire at an illegally tapped pipeline in Mexico rose to 93 on Tuesday after four more injured people died at hospitals.

Health Secretary Jorge Alcocer said Tuesday that 46 victims who were severely burned were still in hospitals, two of them in Galveston, Texas. Some are in very poor condition.

The victims were gathering gasoline from an illegal pipeline tap in the central state of Hidalgo on Friday when the gas ignited, littering an alfalfa field with charred bodies.

Many suffered bad burns over much of their bodies; about 22 of those who initially survived have since died of their injuries.

The government reported Monday that an astonishing total of 14,894 such illegal taps had been found in 2018, an average of about 41 per day nationwide.

Hidalgo had 2,121 taps, more than any other state. The fire occurred in the town of Tlahuelilpan, where 38 taps were found in 2017 and 23 in 2018.

On Tuesday, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador launched a plan that includes six types of social aid programs for communities that have been the scenes of illegal taps in the past.

The programs will be offered in 91 townships in nine central states where pipelines pass through.

The plan includes job-training stipends, old-age supplementary payments, small, unsecured lending programs and scholarships.

Some of the communities have actively helped fuel-theft gangs in the past by confronting military and police patrols, or acting as look-outs. Lopez Obrador hopes to eliminate pretexts for helping the gangs by providing opportunities for local residents in the legitimate economy.

“No Mexican will be forced by necessity to participate in these activities,” Lopez Obrador said at a rally in a small town northwest of Mexico City.

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