Pipeline explosion witnesses describe scene where 73 died: 'People's skin came off'

PEMEX announced that the explosion was caused by the illegal manipulation of the pipeline, as minutes before the accident videos were shot where people could be seen filling drums and car fuel tanks. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

Grief-stricken family members and witnesses to Friday's pipeline explosion in central Mexico -- which killed at least 73 people, burning many to just bones or ash, and injured at least 74 -- were still reeling from the tragedy Saturday.

“Some people’s skin came off. ... It was very ugly, horrible. People screamed and cried,” local journalist Veronica Jimenez told Reuters.

She said she arrived at the scene before the explosion, watching as some 300 people carried containers to collect fuel from an illegal tap in the pipeline Friday evening.

After the blast, “They shouted the names of their husbands, brothers, their family members," she recalled, of people searching for loved ones.

On Saturday, health officials were taking DNA samples from relatives to help identify the dead, dozens of whom were badly burned. Hugo Olvera Estrada said he visited six nearby hospitals hoping to find his 13-year-old son, who joined the crowd at the spill and remains missing.

"Ay, no, where is my son?" he wailed.

Isaias Garcia, a farmer who witnessed the explosion from a distance, explained why so many had come to the area.

"Everyone came to see if they could get a bit of gasoline for their car," he said. "There isn’t any in the gas stations."

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