At least 71 people were killed and at least 85 people are listed as missing after a leaking gas pipeline explosion in Mexico on Friday. Many of the victims were filling buckets and and cans from an illegal tap drilled by thieves when fuel suddenly shot into the air and set the night sky ablaze in a town an hour north of Mexico City, the Associated Press reported. Fuel theft is rampant in Mexico; thieves drilled more than 12,000 taps last year. And this is not the first time it has resulted in tragedy. In 2010, a similar blast killed 28 people. The explosion occurred on Friday evening by the town of Tlahuelilpan in the state of Hidalgo. The explosion is one of the deadliest incidents to hit Mexico’s troubled oil infrastructure in years.
One witness described how an almost festive atmosphere among local residents filling containers with spilled fuel turned to horror as the blast scattered the crowd in all directions. There have reportedly been local gasoline shortages since Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador launched a drive to stamp out fuel theft, prompting the rush to the gushing pipeline, Reuters reports.