The death toll from a fiery explosion in central Mexico rose to 85 as authorities vowed to hold accountable those responsible for a deliberate fuel-line puncture that drew hundreds of people looking to gather gasoline before it ignited.
The search for human remains at the site of the explosion in the state of Hidalgo ended late on Saturday. While families began to bury the dead, officials indicated the death toll could still rise.
Health Minister Jorge Alcocer said 85 deaths were confirmed and that another 58 people were hospitalised in Hidalgo, while others in worse conditions had been moved to Mexico City for specialized treatment.
Family members of the victims have called on the government to continue looking for remains and to bring back forensic experts for that purpose.
Funerals already have begun, but the handover of remains has been slow because many of the victims were burned beyond recognition.
The Hidalgo state prosecutor said 54 of the dead could not be readily identified, and require DNA analysis.
Hundreds of people had been drawn to the place where suspected fuel thieves tapped into a pipeline in the town of Tlahuelilpan.
Images captured by local media showed a torrent of fuel escaping from a pipeline as people converged on the site with buckets and jerrycans to collect gasoline.
A massive explosion engulfed the area in flames, and local media showed images of people screaming as they fled, their clothes in flames, some with severe burns.
Asked whether those hospitalised would be considered suspects, Attorney General Alejandro Gertz said investigators do not seek to “victimise the communities.”
“We are going to find those responsible for actions that generated this tragedy,” he said. “Victimizing the whole population is not (the investigation’s) function nor is it established in the law.”
The disaster came during a crackdown by the new government of President Manuel Lopez Obrador on the lucrative illegal business of fuel thefts, which triggered shortages of gasoline.