At least 26 people were killed when a Mexican pipeline exploded and caught fire at a gas plant near the US border on Tuesday.
The accident has also injured many others in the worst accident in just two years for the state-run Pemex energy firm, reports The Associated Free Press.
TV images have shown tall flames and plumes of smoke billowing from the gas plant, which is located near Reynosa, a city located in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, which sits across from the Texas town of McAllen. The company stated on Twitter that:
“Regrettably, the number of workers who died in this morning’s accident in Tamaulipas rose to 26.”
The death toll more than doubled on Tuesday evening from the 10 deaths that were reported earlier on. The company added that four of those dead were Pemex workers, while the other 22 people were contractors.
They did not report any injuries, but a Red Cross worker let reporters know that 40 people were taken to a hospital, with more than half suffering from first- and second-degree burns.
The fire is the third incident at a Pemex facility in a little over a month. The fire broke out around 10:45 am (GMT) on Tuesday. Workers immediately shut off pipeline valves while firefighters worked to spend two hours extinguishing the blaze.
Bloomberg Business Week notes that civil protection officials evacuated ranches and homes within three miles of the gas facility. They did not say how many people were evacuated, but the area is rural, so it is not well populated.
Pipelines that carry gas and diesel in Mexico are often tapped by thieves looking to steal what they carry. There have been several oil spills and explosions as a result, although thieves rarely target gas pipelines.
Authorities blamed oil thieves for an oil pipeline explosion in a central Mexico city that killed 28 people, including 13 kids, in December 2010. The blast scorched homes and burned people, affecting 5,000 residents in just a six mile area.