Funerals begin for victims of pipeline blast as loved ones search for missing

admin   •   January 21, 2019   •   1926

Fire after pipeline explosion in Hidalgo State, Mexico  | Reuters

Friends and family began saying their final farewells on Sunday (January 20) to victims of a gasoline pipeline blast that has killed at least 79 people.

Fuel thieves punctured the Tula-Tuxpan pipeline a few miles from one of Mexico’s main refineries on Friday (January 18). Up to 800 people flocked to fill plastic containers from the 7-meter (23-ft) gasoline geyser that ensued, officials say. A couple of hours later, it erupted in flames in a powerful explosion.

Half a dozen people interviewed by Reuters on Saturday (January 19) said their relatives went to the leaking duct in Tlahuelilpan district in Hidalgo state because they struggled to find fuel elsewhere and were desperate to fill up cars to get to work or run their farms.

On Sunday, a steady stream of funerals began for the victims while others continued searching for their loved ones.

Many people are posting signs with photos, names and descriptions.

Javier Cervantes is looking for his brother Isaac and his combing hospitals and morgues with no luck. Ema Olvera is looking for her 13-year-old brother who was at the scene of the explosion, but hasn’t found any leads.

Late last month, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador launched a programme to shut down an illegal fuel distribution network that siphons off about $3 billion dollars worth of fuel annually from state oil firm Pemex.

The plan, which called for shutting pipelines targeted by thieves, led to widespread gasoline shortages in central Mexico this month, including in Hidalgo, north of Mexico City.

Lopez Obrador said on Sunday that the disaster had not weakened his resolve to fight fuel theft.

The tragedy in Tlahuelilpan, however, has brought renewed scrutiny of the strategy. Lopez Obrador has repeatedly been asked why soldiers deployed to guard the duct did not chase people away from the leak, and how quickly the pipeline was shut down after Pemex detected the rupture.

Pemex closed a valve at the pipeline after noting a drop in pressure from the leak, Pemex Chief Executive Officer Octavio Romero said at a press conference on Saturday. Pemex was aware of the leak at 4:50 p.m. (2250GMT), but did not say at what time the valve was shut, he added.

Fuel spurted from the pipeline for around two hours after Pemex alerted other authorities to the leak, with no visible loss of pressure, before the explosion.

Lopez Obrador said prosecutors will investigate, but that even if the valve were closed immediately there still would have been 10,000 barrels of high octane gasoline in the section of pipeline between the Tula refinery and the village. — Reuters

Mexico’s mighty Popo volcano blows under starry night sky

Marje Pelayo   •   August 14, 2019

Mexico’s majestic Popocatepetl volcano erupted early on Tuesday (August 13) morning, in a dramatic show of ash, water vapour and gas under a canopy of stars.

The dramatic eruption at 5:43 am local time (1143 GMT) spewed ash followed by incandescent rock.

Shortly after sunrise a new plume of ash and gas emerged from the snowcapped crater, reaching some 1,000 metres (3,200 feet) into the blue sky.

Popocatepetl is 5,426 metres (17,802 feet) tall and is the second highest mountain in Mexico and the fifth highest in North America. – REUTERS

(Production: Rodolfo Pena Roja)

Armed robbers in Mexico steal $2.5 million in gold coins

Robie de Guzman   •   August 7, 2019

Courtesy: Reuters

Armed robbers broke into a Mexican government coin manufacturer on Tuesday (August 06) and filled a backpack with more than $2 million worth of gold coins from a vault that had been left open, security officials said.

The daylight robbery was the latest high-profile crime to hit Mexico City, where crime has increased during record lawlessness plaguing the country.

Two people, one wielding a firearm, broke into a “Casa de Moneda” branch in the morning after throwing a security guard to the ground and taking his gun, Mexico City police said.

One of the robbers then went to the vault, which was open, and filled a backpack with 1,567 gold coins, police said.

The coins, known as “centenarios,” have a face value of 50 pesos, but trade for 31,500 pesos ($1,610) apiece, according to Mexican bank Banorte. That makes the total value of the haul at least $2.5 million.

The coin was first minted in 1921 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Mexico’s independence from Spain, according to the central bank.

Production was suspended in 1931, but the coin was re-minted beginning in 1943 due to demand for gold coins.

One side bears Mexico’s coat of arms, with an eagle perched atop a cactus, and the other features the capital’s iconic Angel of Independence monument backed by the majestic Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl volcanoes.

The coins, 37 mm (1.46 inches) in diameter, have a gold fineness of 0.900, or 90% purity.

Mexico is suffering from record murder levels that have made the capital, long regarded as a relatively safe haven, increasingly prone to violent crime. (REUTERS)

(Production: Alberto Fajardo)

Mexican and American children breach border wall with pink seesaws

Marje Pelayo   •   July 31, 2019

Sunland Park, New Mexico, United States (July 28, 2019): Children and adults playing on seesaws along the Us-Mexico border. | Courtesy: Kerry Doyle / Reuters

Fluorescent pink seesaws were fitted on a frontier fence along the US-Mexico border to symbolically bridge the divide and encourage both children and adults to play.

The seesaws were installed by Ronald Rael, a professor of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley.

He received the the support of Colectivo Chopeke in Ciudad Juarez which shared his goal of connecting both sides “as a recognition of the actions that happen in one side and have a direct impact on the other,” Ronald wrote on his Instagram page.

A video of the children playing was taken in Sunland Park, New Mexico courtesy of Kerry Doyle. REUTERS

(Production: Mariana Sandoval)

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