Explosion at Venezuela Refinery Kills 39

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 26 2012 1:00 PM

Explosion at Venezuela Refinery Kills 39

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A controlled flame burns behind a storage tank in this file photo of the oil refinery that was ripped by an explosion Saturday

Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images

UPDATE: The death toll from the explosion that ripped through Venezuela’s biggest oil refinery has increased to 39, with more than 80 others injured. The country’s energy minister told state television that the fire was contained Sunday and emphasized that production had not been affected, reports Reuters. The increased death toll makes Saturday’s explosion one of the deadliest refinery accidents in history.

People who live next to the refinery say they started smelling a strong sulfur odor hours before the explosion, which was caused by a gas leak, reports the Associated Press. President Hugo Chávez has declared three days of mourning.

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Saturday, August 25 at 5:30 p.m.: An explosion at Venezuela’s biggest oil refinery on Saturday killed at least 26 people and wounded at least 86 others in what is being described as the country’s worst industrial accident in recent memory. Officials have pledged to restart the massive 645,000 barrel-per-day refinery within two days, making it unlikely that the blast will affect supplies or international prices, reports the Associated Press.

A 10-year-old boy was among the dead, most of whom were National Guard troops responsible for providing security for the refinery, reports Reuters. The explosion at the Amuay plant, which is part of the Paraguana Refinery Complex, follows numerous accidents and outages at state oil company PDVSA’s facilities in recent years.

Venezuela’s oil minister said a gas leak led to the explosion, reports Bloomberg.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.