MEXICO CITY – Some 3,000 people in central Mexico were forced to evacuate their homes on Friday after an attempt to tap a fuel pipeline triggered a liquefied petroleum gas leak, the governor of the central state of Mexico said.
“A gas leak occurred this morning at the Cactus-Guadalajara Polyduct located in the municipality of Nextlalpan. To ensure the safety of the inhabitants of that area, we evacuated at least 3,000 people and transferred them to a temporary shelter,” Alfredo del Mazo said on Twitter.
The governor also said that more than 500 officials, including employees of Mexican state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), state police, army soldiers, Civil Protection personnel and firefighters, were at the scene and working to control the leak.
Authorities have thus far ruled out any deaths or injuries from the leak, which caused a white cloud to blanket much of the area.
Pemex, for its part, said in a statement that it received reports Friday of a gas leak caused by an illegal tap and therefore opted for an emergency shutdown.
David Leon, the national Civil Protection coordinator, told reporters that the leak had practically been brought under control thanks to the work of the public safety and emergency teams.
Authorities and firefighters began working to resolve the problem after receiving reports from local residents about a strong smell of gas.
Pemex said the leak occurred approximately 550 meters (1,800 feet) from the crowded Circuito Exterior Mexiquense, a toll road that skirts the edge of Greater Mexico City, and 150 m from the Nextlalpan-Santa Ana highway, forcing authorities to cut off traffic in that area.
The company said the town of Nextlalpan was out of danger and that Pemex’s legal division will take steps to bring those responsible for the leak to justice.
Officials said Pemex suffered billions of dollars in losses annually prior to 2019 from fuel theft, a major criminal enterprise in Mexico.
But the company said in April that thanks to aggressive efforts by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s administration, who took office last December, that crime had plunged by 95 percent over a period of five months.
Fuel theft not only leads to heavy economic losses but also puts citizens’ lives at risk.
A Jan. 18 explosion caused by an illegal tap of a fuel pipeline in the central state of Hidalgo left 135 people dead.