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>> A grim scene Saturday, in a small Mexican town in the central state of Hidalgo. As forensic experts inspected the charred remains of at least 66 Mexicans killed Friday evening when a pipeline ruptured by suspected fuel thieves exploded into flames. Reuters correspondent Anthony Esposito is at the scene.
>> Behind me, there are forensic experts examining the bodies. Looking for any clues to be able to identify them. There are a couple of hundred family members and friends who are here, waiting for any information regarding their family. Many of the bodies are so burned that they're just basically a pile of ash and some bones.
>> The blast, which injured over 76 people was one of the worst incidents to hit Mexico's troubled oil infrastructure in years. And comes as the country's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador launched a crackdown in December on fuel theft, ordering pipelines to be closed temporarily to stop thieves from siphoning fuel.
But that has led to gasoline shortages in many parts of Mexico including Hidalgo, where local media this week said more than half of the gas stations were at times closed. Residents say those shortages sent hundreds of people scrambling to the pipeline with containers and buckets Friday, when they saw oil gushing out from an illegal tap, shooting up as high as 23 feet.
The scene soon turned gruesome as an explosion scattered the crowd in all directions,incinerating clothes and inflicting severe burns.>>
We want them to help us and to open up the trench where the tap was because it's covered in dirt. And it was full of people there who were alive before the explosion, so they didn't get out and they might be there.
>> Some locals criticize security forces at the scene for not warning people to get away from the leaking fuel. But at a press conference Saturday, Lopez Obrador defended the Army, saying soldiers had been right to avoid a confrontation with locals. While Lopez Obrador's recent efforts to root out fuel theft by gangs has resulted in long lines at gas stations, many Mexicans still support the new president's mission as the rampant practice cost state oil company Pemex about 3 billion dollars last year.