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Gas leak causes mass evacuation in central Mexico

Staff Writer |
About 2,500 people were evacuated on Wednesday after a massive gas leak in the Mexican city of Puebla, said authorities.

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The leak, caused by fuel theft in Mexico's central state Puebla, occurred on a pipeline owned by the state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex).

A video recorded by a neighbor and published by local press showed a dense cloud of gas shooting out of the pipe to meters high in the air.

Starting at about 4 a.m. local time (0900 GMT), the leak had forced the closure of businesses and schools in 10 neighborhoods after Puebla's Civil Protection ordered an evacuation.

Authorities shut down the electrical power to the area and restricted the movement of vehicles while Pemex sealed the leak. Around 1,500 fire fighters, rescuers and police attended the operation.

"We have evacuated approximately 2,500 people," Puebla Mayor Luis Banck told press following the incident.

"It's clear this was a criminal act and that whoever did this is a criminal," Banck said that they found the thieves' tools at the site of the leak.

Authorities also set up two temporary shelters for those evacuated, while locals were waiting for the gas to disperse and to be allowed to return to their homes.

Pemex released a press statement confirming the leak was caused by criminals and that it would report the incident to Puebla's Attorney General.

Fuel theft is a persistent problem in various Mexican states, including Puebla. The Mexican government has estimated that illegal pipeline taps cause annual losses of around 1.05 billion U.S. dollars.

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