By KEJAL VYAS
CARACAS -- Heavy storms affected two of Venezuela's key oil
refineries as one facility was struck by lightning resulting in
a fire while another was hit by a power outage, officials from
Petroleos de Venezuela (PdVSA), said.
"We are experiencing some quite strong atmospheric
conditions in all of the northern coastal part of the country,
Asdrubal Chavez, PdVSA's VP of refining, said."
A large fire broke out at the country's 187,000 bpd Puerto
la Cruz refinery after a lightning strike in the afternoon. The
flames were completely extinguished by night, Mr. Chavez
confirmed, adding that there were no injuries and that the
refinery continued to operate normally.
Local media earlier showed tall flames and a towering cloud
of black smoke coming from the key oil facility, which lies in
the coastal city of Puerto la Cruz, about 160 miles east of
Residents living around the refinery who were evacuated were
starting to return to their houses, Mr. Chavez said.
Meanwhile, 230 miles west, the 140,000 bpd El Palito refinery was paralyzed after heavy
rains caused a power outage in the region, a PdVSA spokesman
He said that workers had already begun restarting the
facility and that it was expected to be fully operational
The incidents are the latest to hit Venezuela's oil
industry, which in recent years has been marred by frequent
mishaps at its production and refining plants.
One year ago, more than 40 people were killed by a gas leak
explosion at the Amuay refinery in the country's deadliest
accident yet. Critics of the government blamed the explosion on
lack of maintenance, charges that PdVSA
officials firmly denied.
In his comments, Mr. Chavez assured that the company
continues to conduct maintenance and preventative
measures but noted that "sometimes these situations are
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