Refinery blast kills 24 in Venezuela

 

A huge explosion rocked Venezuela's biggest oil refinery early today, killing at least 24 people and injuring more than 50 others in the deadliest disaster in memory for the country's key oil industry.

Balls of fire rose over the Amuay refinery, one of the largest in the world, in video posted on the Internet by people who were nearby at the time.

Those killed included a 10-year-old boy, and at least 53 people were injured, Falcon state Gov. Stella Lugo said on state television. She said firefighters had controlled the flames at the refinery on the Paraguana Peninsula in western Venezuela, where large clouds of smoke were rising.

At least 24 people were killed, many of them National Guard troops stationed at the refinery, Vice President Elias Jaua said on television after traveling to the area. He said the authorities were "trying to save the greatest number of lives."

Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said that Venezuela has enough fuel supplies to guarantee continued exports and domestic supply. As far as fuel shipments, he said, "we won't have major effects."

The blast occurred after 1 am when a gas leak created a cloud that ignited, Ramirez said. Some nearby houses were damaged by the blast, he said on television.

"That gas generated a cloud that later exploded and has caused fires in at least two tanks of the refinery and surrounding areas," Ramirez said. "The blast wave was of a significant magnitude."

Images in state media showed the flames casting an orange glow against the night sky. One photograph showed an injured man being wheeled away on a stretcher.

"The areas that had to be evacuated were evacuated," Lugo said, according to the state-run Venezuelan News Agency. "The situation is controlled. Of course they're still a fire rising very high, but ... the specialists tell me there is no risk of another explosion."

Ramirez said oil workers will determine what caused the gas leak and were inspecting the damage along with troops. Ramirez said that nine storage tanks were damaged. He said supplies of fuel had been cut off to part of the refinery, and that the fire had been brought under control.

Troops were securing the area at the refinery, Lugo said.

"At this time, the situation is controlled," Jaua said on television, while smoke continued to rise from the refinery. Jaua said earlier on his Twitter account that the military was deployed to the area and that air ambulances were dispatched to ferry the wounded.

Amuay is part of the Paraguana Refinery Complex, which also includes the adjacent Cardon refinery. Together, the two refineries process about 900,000 barrels of crude a day and 200,000 barrels of gasoline. Venezuela is a major supplier of oil to the US and a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral