19 die in Venezeula refinery blast

19 die in Venezeula refinery blast

The death toll from an explosion at Venezuela’s biggest oil refinery has risen to 19, according to a state governor.

Falcon state governor Stella Lugo said the victims include a 10-year-old boy.

She added that at least 53 people were injured after the blast at the Amuay refinery on Saturday.

Governor Lugo told the state-run Venezuelan News Agency: ``The areas that had to be evacuated were evacuated.

“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.”

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

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

“That gas generated a cloud that later exploded and has caused fires in at least two tanks of the refinery and surrounding areas,” Mr 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.

Mr Ramirez said oil 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.

Vice president Elias Jaua said on his Twitter account that the military was deployed to the area and that air ambulances were dispatched to ferry the wounded.

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 a day and 200,000 barrels of petrol.

It is unclear to what extent the explosion might affect oil shipments from Venezuela, a member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

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