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Venezuela puts out fire at oil refinery   2012-08-29 08:32:00

Venezuelan Oil and Mining Minister Rafael Ramirez confirmed Tuesday firefighters had extinguished a fire raging since Saturday at its Amuay crude oil refinery.

At a press conference broadcast by radio and television, Ramirez said the fire burning at the last of three storage tanks that were in flames was completely put out around 7:15 am local time (11:45 GMT).

More than 222 firefighters and numerous volunteers from the state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) struggled to control the flames. It took some 17 hours to put out the fire at the last storage tank, which caught fire at 2:15 am local time (6: 45 GMT) Monday, two days after the initial explosion.

Ramirez, who is also head of PDVSA, said workers were now trying to cool down the tanks, including a nearby fourth tank.

"The cooling phase of tanks 200, 202, 203 and 204 ... could take hours," he said.

On Monday, Ramirez had predicted it would take until Wednesday to control the fire, and until Friday to resume operations at the plant, but that may change given the latest development.

A gas leak at Amuay, part of the world's second-largest refinery complex, led to an explosion just past 1 a.m. local time Saturday that ignited two storage tanks, then spread to a third.

Officials are still investigating what sparked the blast, which killed 48 people and seriously injured another 84, leveled more than 500 nearby homes and businesses, knocked down walls and damaged vehicles.

Most of the victims were Venezuelan National Guard members charged with protecting the refinery, and lived within the complex with their families.

Amuay is in Venezuela's northwest Falcon state and due to the industrial fumes and smoke from the fires, residents were evacuated and remain at temporary shelters put up by the local state government of Falcon.

The incident is considered to be the worst industrial disaster in Venezuela's history.

Venezuela is South America's biggest oil producer and the world 's fifth biggest oil exporter.

source : Xinhua     editor:: tina
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