Thousands of people were evacuated in western Mexico as streams of gasoline gushed from a pipeline that officials say was tampered with by fuel thieves.
The incident occurred in the town of Tlajomulco, which is close to Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city. The closest homes from the site of the leak are in a housing development only 150 yards. The evacuation took place within a half mile span of the site. There were no reports of injuries and the gasoline never caught fire.
The pipeline is owned by the state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos oil company, known as Pemex. The company closed the valves closest to the leak. Emergency personnel erected a sand-bag barrier around the leak to contain the gasoline and prevent it from entering storm drains.
In 1992, more than 200 people were killed and 1,000 homes destroyed when gasoline leaked into storm drains and ignited in Guadalajara. The effects of the link were comparable to a six mile long bomb.
Pemex has been struggling with fuel thieves for months. Just in the first six months of this year alone, over 1,400 illegal taps fuel taps have been uncovered by the company. That’s more than double the total amount of illegal taps found in all of last year.
Given the knowledge and expertise needed to tap into these high-pressured lines, law enforcement says the thieves must be getting their knowledge and assistance from company insiders. Just this week, 39 Pemex employees and nine sub-contracted fuel delivery truck drivers have been arrested on suspicion of fuel theft. Those arrested were allegedly falsifying weight measurements on loaded tanker trucks at a Pemex distribution facility.
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