Caracas, 26 August (Argus) — A deadly blast at PdV's 640,000 b/d Amuay refinery in Venezuela has now claimed the lives of 41, injured another 84, leveled 219 nearby homes and destroyed 11 businesses in the area, the government confirmed.
The explosion in the early morning hours of 25 August killed at least 17 National Guard troops who were sleeping in nearby barracks and the ensuing fire also killed a 10-year old boy in a home near the plant.
The growing death count is expected to continue to rise, because many of the injured suffered third-degree burns, according to an Futpv oil union safety official at Amuay.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez declared three days of mourning over the accident. Energy minister Rafael Ramirez said an investigation into the blast was being initiated at the refinery on the Paraguana peninsula. The facility will restart two days after it is declared safe, he said.
As of this afternoon there are still fires burning at Amuay as remaining spilled fuel in damaged tanks burns off.
The Amuay explosion appears to be the most lethal refinery accident in the 98-year history of Venezuela's oil industry, and it appears to have been caused by leaking propane that spread into the refinery's olefins production area.
An Futpv union official with knowledge of the refinery said the propane gas leak appears to have been very substantial and was not immediately detected by the refinery's automated safety systems.
“This accident happened because PdV doesn't have qualified refinery managers and skilled workers, and doesn't conduct needed preventive maintenance,” he said.
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