After deadly gasoline pipeline explosion, Mexico’s search for human remains continues

World Today

(PHOTO: Franc Contreras)

The death toll from Friday’s massive gasoline pipeline explosion in Mexico has risen to 85. Officials say more than 80 people were injured, many suffering from serious burns and scores more remain missing. CGTN’s Franc Contreras reports.

The tragedy took place amid a Mexican government crackdown on fuel theft.

The brutal but critical task of searching for any trace of human remains from Friday’s blast continues in the rural town of Tlahuelilpan, located in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo.

Dozens of local volunteers joined federal forensics experts in an effort to identify those who died in the gasoline fire. The found charred body parts, pieces of human flesh, burnt clothing and the shoes of the victims are scattered across wide areas of this alfalfa field.

As the magnitude of the tragedy sets in, a local government official tries to calm residents, frustrated because dozens of their loved ones are still missing.

(PHOTO: Franc Contreras)

Resident Florencio Leon Angeles has friends and neighbors who died when the pipeline exploded. He admits most of them were trying to steal the spewing fuel, but understands their actions because they were poor.

“People are hurting and they are desperate to find their loved ones – family members and friends. It was such a horrible tragedy that no one expected,” Leon Angeles told CGTN.

At the epicenter where the blast took place, the ground around the ditch where the pipe is located is scorched, and the heavy smell of gasoline still hangs in the air.

Upon taking office on December first, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador promised to end the widespread practice of gasoline theft, which he says costs the nation $3 billion each year.

On Sunday, he pledged to continue his crackdown on the thieves.

“We need to go to the roots of this problem and resolve it. One important thing, which we will tackle this week, is to find options for our people so they will no longer have to do this,” Lopez Obrador said.

(PHOTO: Franc Contreras)

As the day progressed, it became increasingly difficult to find victims’ remains. Most bodies were burned beyond recognition. Others incinerated and turned to ash when the massive blaze erupted.

Sunday ended in this agricultural town with a funeral procession for one family grieving but grateful because the remains of their loved one were among the few recovered and identified.