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The site of Friday's explosion in Hidalgo. The site of Friday's explosion in Hidalgo.

Hidalgo explosion: identifying some of the remains could take months

Death toll is now 89; 58 victims are in hospitals in three states and the US

Identifying the remains of people killed in the petroleum pipeline explosion in Hidalgo on Friday night could take months, according to the state governor.

“The remains we have are unidentifiable . . . In many cases, identification can be done [but] it won’t be in a moment or in a couple of hours. There are cases that will take hours and cases that will take days . . . and even months,” Omar Fayad said yesterday after a meeting with family members of the deceased.

The governor said that the remains of 68 people were found at the scene of the explosion – a field in the municipality of Tlahuelilpan – but only nine of those victims have been identified.

Family members of those believed to be among the deceased have provided 54 genetic samples to assist with the identification process, he added.

Fayad said that “the most difficult cases” could be sent to laboratories in the United States or Innsbruck, Austria, for analysis.

Researchers at the Innsbruck Medical University previously carried out DNA testing on bone fragments recovered from a river near the Cocula garbage dump in Guerrero, where the bodies of 43 students are believed to have been burned in 2014.

The death toll from Friday’s explosion has now risen to 89, Health Secretary Jorge Alcocer said this morning.

When the blast occurred, the victims were filling containers with fuel that was shooting into the air after the pipeline had been illegally tapped.

A large fire spread across the field in the community of San Primitivo, engulfing scores of people in flames.

More than 50 victims, most with severe burns, remain in hospital including three people who were transferred to Texas for treatment.

National Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval said 25 soldiers arrived at the field when only a small amount of fuel was coming out of the punctured pipeline and that they tried to stop people from approaching it.

However, the soldiers were “overwhelmed by the number of people” and “forced to retreat to one side to avoid a confrontation,” Cresencio said.

Asked yesterday whether the explosion may have been sabotage aimed at testing the government’s resolve with regard to its anti-fuel theft strategy, President López Obrador responded:

“If they are thinking about trying us, if that’s the intention, then once and for all understand that we’re not going to give up . . . I offer an apology to the people if this action causes sacrifices, damages, inconveniences but we have to do it . . . The homeland comes first. Mexico needs to put an end to corruption, it’s not something that’s negotiable.”

Source: Milenio (sp) 

UPDATE January 21, 5:34 CT: The death toll has risen to 91, the state reported, and 52 victims are being treated in hospital.

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