Mexico gas pipeline leak causes evacuation

A gas leak apparently caused by an illegal pipeline tap led authorities to evacuate about 2,000 people Friday in a rural community just north of Mexico City.

The leak sent large plumes of gas billowing into the air and into the surrounding fields. A highway that runs just 150 yards (meters) away from the leak was closed to traffic, as was a train line nearby.

The state-run Pemex oil company said the flow of LP gas into the pipeline had been shut off. The remaining gas in the duct was being purged prior to repair efforts.

The civil defense office in the State of Mexico said emergency personnel were pumping water toward the fields to reduce the possibility of chance combustion.

The federal civil defense office said the leak was caused by an illegal tap drilled by fuel thieves.

Over 8,000 taps have been found this year despite a government crackdown on the crime. The taps are more common on pipelines carrying gasoline or diesel, but natural gas has also been stolen.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador insisted Friday that overall fuel thefts had been reduced to a fraction of what they were before he took office Dec. 1

Lopez Obrador said thieves stole the equivalent of 81,000 barrels in November, a number that fell to around 5,000 barrels in July.

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