MEXICO CITY, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- The number of people killed in a fuel pipeline explosion on Jan. 18 in the central state of Hidalgo has risen to 117, the Mexican government said Tuesday.
According to the latest report, 68 people died at the time of the explosion and 49 have died in hospitals, said Ruy Lopez, general director of the National Center for Disease Prevention and Control Programs (Cenaprece).
Currently, 27 people remained hospitalized in various hospitals. Of those, 10 were listed as "very serious," 13 as "serious," and four in "delicate" condition, the official said during a press conference.
Hugo Lopez-Gatell, deputy secretary of the Prevention and Health Promotion Agency, said as of Tuesday the "emergency phase is closed" and the phase to support the injured begins.
The latter stage "will last as long as necessary," given that rehabilitation for the survivors suffering burn injuries can take six months or more.
To date, 16 bodies have been identified and turned over to their family members, according to prosecutors of the Hidalgo State.
Authorities are collecting DNA samples from people with missing family members, which will help in identifying the bodies recovered at the blast site.
According to local government, between 600 and 800 people gathered at the site to collect leaked fuel with containers when the explosion took place.
Authorities are investigating whether the illegal tapping of the pipeline was the result of fuel theft, a crime that cost the country some 3 billion U.S. dollars in 2018.