The number of dead resulting from the explosion at the gasoline duct in Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo, has risen to 79, according to Mexican Health Secretary Jorge Alcocer Varela.

And while there are still 81 people in hospitals, most in serious condition, Alcocer Varela said that the majority have been or are being transported to specialized hospitals with burn units,

There are only 17 burn units in the country, of which the main one is the National Institute of Rehabilitation in Mexico City and six others are also in Mexico City.

In total, there are less than 130 burn unit beds nationwide, although there are nearly 200,000 burn victims in Mexico each year.

Speaking at an early morning press conference at the National Palace with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), the health secretary said it was too early to predict the fate of the hospitalized victims given that there is “a 48- to 72-hour window” during which patient recovery can be determined.

“For now, we have to wait and see, since many of these patients have injuries to internal organs,” Alcocer Varela.

The explosion occurred in the late afternoon of Friday, Jan. 18, at an illegal tap in the Tuxpan-Tula pipeline, where hundreds of locals had rushed in to collect gasoline in cans and other containers.

The central Mexican state of Hidalgo, next to Mexico City, has been severely hit by a gasoline shortage resulting from AMLO’s ongoing crackdown on huachicoleo (gasoline piracy), which he began in late December, his first month in office.

López Obrador, who arrived at the scene of the disaster by car four and a half hours after the explosion, was asked in the press conference whether he would now consider using helicopters or airplanes so that he could be on hand sooner in the case of a national disaster,

He answered that he saw no reason to use these means of transportation “unless there is an emergency.”

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