SUNDAY TIMES WEB DESK: Omar Fayad, governor of Hidalgo state, said locals at the site of the leak were scrambling to steal some of the leaking oil when at least 20 of them were burned to death.

“I’ve been told that 20 have been burned to death and another 54 burn victims being treated” in hospitals, Fayad told media

Scores of locals were collecting fuel in buckets and cans from spouting leaks, and making off with the stolen gasoline, local media showed.

“What we know is that it was an illegal fuel theft site, and that authorities were aware of it” when it burned, Fayed added.

Hours later, and after sundown, the first images of the tragedy were shown on television, with desperate people fleeing the scene, screaming for help.

Federal and state firefighters and ambulances run by state oil giant Pemex were headed to the area to help burn victims, the governor added.