Thieves tapping into a Mexican fuel pipeline triggered a large diesel fuel spill south of the border city of Tijuana in Baja California state earlier this week, authorities said. A senior source at the state emergencies agency, which has dealt with a number of fuel spills in recent years due to criminal activity, described the incident as serious.
“There cannot be less than 50,000 liters (13,000 gallons) spilled,” the official said. “We’ve never seen anything like this.” A Reuters witness saw a 3-foot stream of fuel flowing on hilly ranch land a few miles from Rosarito, Mexico. Police prevented people from approaching the pipeline but bulldozers could be seen working to build huge piles of earth to contain and absorb the flow of fuel.
The odor of petroleum was strong. Gangs of fuel thieves regularly tap into Pemex pipelines to steal gasoline, diesel fuel, and even crude oil. The lucrative trade has attracted Mexico’s drug cartels, which earn money protecting fuel thieves and helping them smuggle oil out of the country. State oil monopoly Pemex said in a press release it was responding to the spill and that it posed no risk to bodies of waters or urban areas. The 10-inch diameter pipeline carries fuel from a Pemex terminal in Rosarito to the city of Mexicali.