Venezuela’s Amuay refinery remained offline Tuesday after firefighters extinguished a blaze that raged for more than three days following an explosion that killed at least 41 people.
While fuel tanks smoldered at the country’s biggest oil refinery, Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said they expect to restart operations at the refinery in two days.
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The blast early Saturday was the deadliest disaster ever at a Venezuelan refinery and has thrown open a national debate about safety and maintenance within the country’s oil industry.
The fire took longer to put out than officials had initially hoped. Ramirez had said Saturday the state oil company would be able to restart the refinery “in a maximum of two days,” then later said it would be two days once the fire was out.
“Now of course come all of the subsequent tasks: Evaluation, securing the entire area,” Ramirez told the Caracas-based television network Telesur Tuesday morning. He said firefighters were still working in the area spraying the tanks with foam to cool them down.
“We need to check all the lines, all the connections, all the valves,” Ramirez said. He added the disaster hadn’t affected the refinery complex’s productive capacity, although operations stopped while the fires burned.
The explosion on Saturday killed at least 41 people and injured more than 150, Prosecutor General Luisa Ortega said.
Officials have said a gas leak led to the blast, but investigators have yet to determine the precise causes.
Officials had said the fire was under control but then revealed Monday a third tank started burning.
When the blast occurred, it knocked down walls, shattered windows and left streets littered with rubble.
The refinery is among the world’s largest and is part of the Paraguana Refining Center, which also includes the adjacent Cardon refinery. Together, the refineries usually process about 900,000 barrels of crude per day and 200,000 barrels of gasoline.