A huge explosion rocked Venezuela's biggest oil refinery yesterday, 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. The blast occurred after 1am when a gas leak created a cloud that ignited.
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 oil minister Rafael Ramirez said workers will determine what caused the gas leak and were inspecting the damage along with troops. He said supplies of fuel had been cut off to the part of the refinery that was still in flames. Troops were last night securing the area.
The Vice-President Elias Jaua said on Twitter that the military was deployed to the area and that air ambulances were dispatched to ferry the wounded to hospitals. The defence minister was travelling to the refinery along with Mr Ramirez and other officials, Mr Jaua said.
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 oil a day.