Death toll rises to 14 in Mex­ico tanker blast

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY CHRISTO­PHER SHER­MAN

The death toll in a gaso­line tanker truck ex­plo­sion in south­east­ern Mex­ico rose to 14 on Tues­day, the re­sult of an at­tempted theft of fuel in an area that au­thor­i­ties say has a long rep­u­ta­tion for road­side thefts.

Tabasco state pros­e­cu­tor Fer­nando Valen­zuela Per­nas said that while in­ves­ti­ga­tors had found no ev­i­dence some­one in­ten­tion­ally ig­nited the gaso­line af­ter the truck crashed last Thurs­day, peo­ple did break through the po­lice perime­ter and then chased off fire­fight­ers so they could steal gaso­line.

“The stretch from La­gartero to Palo Mu­lato his­tor­i­cally has been an area of rob­bery and as­sault on com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles and pas­sen­gers, in­clud­ing a time in which they put oil on the high­way to get ve­hi­cles to run off the road,” Valen­zuela said Mon­day. “It’s not some­thing re­cent.”

He said fed­eral po­lice, sol­diers and state po­lice have in­creased pa­trols in the area since last year.

The Civil De­fense agency had said the 15,800-gal­lon (60, 000-liter) tanker crashed on the road be­tween Vil­la­her­mosa and Coatza­coal­cos. Peo­ple ig­nored au­thor­i­ties’ warn­ings to stay away and in­stead tried to take gaso­line from the dam­aged tanker. Many suf­fered se­ri­ous burns when it ex­ploded.

Valen­zuela said fire­fight­ers had se­cured 10,000 liters be­fore they were run off by lo­cals.

In ad­di­tion to those killed, more than 20 peo­ple were in­jured. Au­thor­i­ties have not been able to in­ter­view the in­jured.

One of the lines of in­ves­ti­ga­tion is whether the fire was in­ten­tion­ally ig­nited. Ru­mors cir­cu­lated that some­one saw a young per­son toss a match, but Valen­zuela said in­ves­ti­ga­tors had found no one to cor­rob­o­rate that.

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