The explosion and fire took place in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo after a ruptured pipeline spewed fuel into the air.
The explosion took place in the town of Tlahuelilpan in the state of Hidalgo.
Mexico is in the middle of a gas shortage, and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has come out strongly against fuel theft.
In the hours before the explosion, thousands of people reportedly gathered around the geyser of gas. Footage appeared to show soldiers guarding the pipeline as people helped themselves to gasoline.
Following the explosion, local hospitals were swamped with burn victims, Punto Por Punto reported.
The governor of the state of Hidalgo, Omar Fayad, confirmed the casualties and called on Mexicans to come out against fuel theft.
“Not only is it illegal, it puts your life and your family’s at risk,” he wrote on Twitter. “What happened today in Tlahuelilpan should not happen again.”
The country’s gas shortage, now in its second week, is bringing hours-long lines to gas stations that have been unable to keep up with demand. The federal government has been trying to curtail what has been organized gas theft and corruption in the country. To do so, López Obrador’s administration has shut down major pipelines of the state-owned petroleum company Pemex, which were targeted by several organized thieves, including drug traffickers.
According to PRI, the thefts have caused Pemex about $3 billion a year.
That’s forced gas stations to rely on being supplied by fuel-transporting trucks, which have not been able to keep up with the pace of demand.
In reaction to the shortage, some communities have looked to tap illegally into fuel pipelines, and some local officials have tried to ration the distribution of gas.
State officials in Querétaro said the fire was also caused by an illegal rupture of the pipe and was expected to burn out in about five hours, Buzz Feed News reports.