Death toll in Venezuela refinery blast rises to 48
The death toll in an explosion and fire at Venezuela's largest oil-refining complex rose to 48, while several people injured in the conflagration remain hospitalized, Falcon state Governor Stella Lugo said Monday, DPA reported.
A gas leak is believed to have caused the explosion Saturday at the Amuay refinery on Venezuela's northern coast, injuring about 80 people. The resulting fire engulfed nine oil tanks, two of which remained in flames Monday.
The facility in Paraguana in the western state of Falcon processed more than 900,000 barrels of fuel a day. Mining and Petroleum Minister Rafael Ramirez insisted Monday that the refinery would resume operations two days after the fire is put out, and that the ongoing fire is not a risk for the rest of the complex.
Like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez did Sunday after visiting the site, Ramirez rejected charges that the explosion was caused by poor maintenance. The claims are "disgraceful," Ramirez said, and he said a probe has been launched to establish the cause of the disaster.
"I have ordered a profound investigation on what happened, and we will also have to properly establish the causes, effects and measures to take," Ramirez said. "Within the scope of the tragedy, we are investigating, finding out truths, taking care of victims."
Locals had reportedly smelled gas as early as Friday.