Mexico Gas-Pipeline Leak Forces Evacuation of 2,000

MEXICO CITY (AP) -

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.

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

The leak also forced temporary suspension of train service on tracks near the pipeline.

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