Pipeline explosion kills dozens in Mexico

At least 21 people have been killed and more than 70 others injured after a explosion at a pipeline leaking fuel in central Mexico.

Locals were collecting the spilling petrol in buckets and rubbish bins when the fuel ignited on Friday, officials said.

The leak was caused by an illegal tap that fuel thieves had drilled into the pipeline in a small town in the state of Hidalgo, about 62 miles north of Mexico City, according to state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex).

Video footage showed dozens of residents near the town of Tlahuelilpan gathered to collect spilled fuel in buckets, garbage cans and other vessels.

Footage then showed flames shooting high into the air against a night sky and the pipeline ablaze while screams could be heard.

Hidalgo governor Omar Fayad said 21 people were killed immediately and 71 suffered burns in the blast at the duct that carries fuel – apparently petrol – from the Gulf coast to Tula, a city just north of Mexico City.

“Caring for the wounded is our top priority,” Mr Fayad said.

Pemex attributed the blaze to “the manipulation of an illegal tap”.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has declared an offensive against fuel theft and the blast will further focus attention on the $3 billion (£2.33bn) per-year illegal industry.

“I greatly lament the grave situation Tlahuelilpan is suffering because of the explosion of the duct,” Mr Lopez Obrador tweeted. He called on all branches of government to assist the victims.

Hidalgo state police said the leak was first reported at about 5pm local time.

“There was a report that residents were on the scene trying to obtain fuel,” according to a police report. Two hours later, the pipeline burst into flames.

And another pipeline burst into flames in the neighboring state of Queretaro, because of another illegal tap. Pemex said the fire near the city of San Juan del Rio “is in an underpopulated area and there is no risk to human beings”.

It is not the first time such an accidents have occurred.

In December 2010, authorities blamed oil thieves for a pipeline explosion in a central Mexico near the capital that killed 28 people, including 13 children.

That blast burned people and scorched homes, affecting 5,000 residents in an area six miles wide in San Martin Texmelucan.

Lopez Obrador launched an offensive against fuel theft after taking office December 1.

Thieves drilled about 12,581 illegal taps in the first 10 months of 2018 and the country has deployed 3,200 marines to guard pipelines and refineries.

The new administration has also shut down pipelines to detect and deter illegal taps, relying more on delivering fuel by tanker truck. But there are not enough trucks, and long lines at gas stations have plagued several states.

However, fuel theft gangs have been able to win the loyalty of whole neighborhoods, using free gas and getting local residents to act as lookouts and confront military patrols carrying out raids against the thefts.

7 dead as huge blasts rock gas depot in Ghana

At least seven people were killed and scores injured, mostly suffering burns, after two explosions at a natural gas depot in Ghana’s capital, fire service spokesman Billy Anaglate said on Sunday.

Gas station fire Accra.jpg

The blasts on Saturday evening sent a giant fireball into the sky above the eastern part of Accra, causing frightened residents to flee their homes in large numbers.

Police said the blasts happened in the Atomic Junction roundabout area of Legon, in northeast Accra, at about 7:30pm (19:30 GMT).

A statement from the Ministry of Information read out on local radio on Sunday said that seven people had been killed and 132 were injured. About half of them had already been treated and discharged, it said.

The explosion began at a state-owned GOIL liquefied natural gas station and spread to a Total petrol station across the street, sending a giant fireball high into the night sky and forcing frightened residents to flee.

At least six fire trucks and more than 200 police personnel were deployed to help to cordon off the area of the blasts. Ambulances also arrived and those with various injuries were sent to the hospital.

Al Jazeera’s Ama Boateng, reporting from Accra, said that many people are feared dead as the blasts happened at “an extremely busy part” of the capital.

“This is a busy interchange and one of the main routes out of the city,” she said. “There are lots of buildings and a lot of people in the area, including many street sellers.”

The filling station is also near a transport terminal and close to some hostels for the University of Ghana.

The Accra city authorities warned people to avoid the area.

Kobby Boateng, a computer programmer, said he had returned to the university campus with his girlfriend when the blast happened.

“All of a sudden, we heard a ‘boom’ and the flash of an explosion, which made the building just shake and the lights went out,” he told AFP.

“People were rushing out of their rooms. Some of them were naked and the heat that was coming from that blast, my God, it was unbearable.”