Gas blasts rock central Mexican city, killing at least 1

Oct 31, 2021, 1:19 PM | Updated: 1:33 pm
Firefighters walk the scene after a series of explosions at a neighborhood in Puebla, Mexico, Sunda...

Firefighters walk the scene after a series of explosions at a neighborhood in Puebla, Mexico, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021. Officials say an illegal tap on a gas line is apparently to blame for the early morning explosions that killed at least one person and injured more than a dozen, destroying dozens of homes and causing the evacuation of some 2000 persons. (AP Photo/Pablo Spencer)

(AP Photo/Pablo Spencer)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Early morning explosions, apparently caused by an illegal tap on a gas line, shook the central Mexican city of Puebla on Sunday, killing at least one person, injuring 11 and damaging dozens of homes, according to state officials

Puebla Gov. Miguel Barbosa said an emergency call warning of a gas smell and cloud in the area gave officials about 80 minutes to evacuate some 2,000 people living as far as a kilometer (about half a mile) of the leak before the first of three explosions, which came shortly before 3 a.m.

“If there had not been an evacuation and there had not been coordination, there would have been a tragedy of great proportions,” the governor said.

Officials said at least 54 homes were destroyed or damaged in in the San Pablo Xochimehuacan district of Puebla, a city of 1.7 million people. At least two of the injured were in critical condition.

Officials also briefly evacuated 37 patients from a nearby hospital, but it was back in service hours later after suffering only minor damage, such as broken windows.

The governor said rescue teams with dogs were searching for more possible victims, though there were no reports of missing people.

Javier González of the government’s Petróleos Mexicanos company said the tap apparently was installed on a property where officials found a tanker truck and 25 gas cylinders. Across the street is a gas distribution company.

Officials said 1,400 soldiers, National Guard troops, police, firefighters and rescue personnel were working in the area following the explosions.

The governor vowed to “get to the bottom” of who is responsible for the explosion.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador offered condolences to victims of the blast. Early in his administration, he crusaded against thieves who tap into gas and gasoline lines — even shutting down major fuel ducts to get rid of thieves.

But official reports indicate that as recently as March, Mexico was losing an average of 4,000 barrels a day of gasoline and diesel to to such taps, which are sometimes guarded by local communities who see them as a resource.

An illegal tap of a gasoline line caused an explosion that killed at least 134 people in the town of Tlahuelilpan, north of Mexico City, in 2019. Townspeople had gathered in a field to fill containers with gasoline leaking from the line.

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Gas blasts rock central Mexican city, killing at least 1