Eight people have been killed and 60 injured after a pipe exploded early Friday morning in the central Colombian department of Risaralda, reports Radio Caracol.
Witnesses reported hearing the blast at 4:45AM as the pipeline exploded, with a huge fire immediately visible from the town of Dosquebradas, located a mile away.
Authorities report that 63 people are being treated at medical centers, of which seven children and 16 adults are in a serious condition.
Medical efforts have been hampered by the fact that the local Santa Jorge and Santa Monica hospitals have been unable to cope with the volume of patients, prompting the injured to be taken to the neighboring town of Santa Rosa de Cabal for treatment.
Mayor of Dosquebradas, Luz Ensueño Betancur, has confirmed that 10 houses have so far been destroyed in the fires. It is feared more may be damaged, though the fire is reported to be under control.
A further 24 thousand people have been left without any water supplies due to the explosion causing an oil spill in the nearby Agua Azul River.
Risaralda Governor Victor Tamayo stated that the explosion was the result of people stealing fuel from pipeline tunnels.
Ecopetrol, Colombia’s state-owned oil company and the owner of the pipeline, released a statement sympathising with the families of the victims and confirmed they were working with authorities to put emergency plans in place.
According to Ecopetrol, a drop in pressure was detected in the pipeline at 3:49AM, leading them to suspend the flow of oil in the pipe. Ecopetrol reiterated that the explosion looked to be the result of attempts to steal gasoline.