Skip to main content

Venezuela's Chavez visits site of deadly refinery blast

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 8:38 PM EDT, Sun August 26, 2012
Fire glows at the site of an explosion at Amuay oil refinery in Punto Fijo, Venezuela, on Saturday.
Fire glows at the site of an explosion at Amuay oil refinery in Punto Fijo, Venezuela, on Saturday.
  • NEW: Two more die in hospital, official says
  • President Hugo Chavez says it's too early to say what caused the explosion
  • At least 41 people were killed and scores more were injured
  • The blast damaged refinery infrastructure and ripped through nearby homes

(CNN) -- President Hugo Chavez arrived at the Amuay oil refinery in northwestern Venezuelan on Sunday, one day after an explosion there killed at least 41 people.

Speaking to reporters, he said it was too early to speculate what could have caused the blast, which left more than 80 people injured.

"There was a leak. The gas formed a cloud and it exploded. We must investigate why," said Chavez.

The president has declared three days of mourning.

He said officials have begun a preliminary investigation, but as of yet have been unable to access the exact spot where the explosion occurred.

The early Saturday morning blast damaged refinery infrastructure and ripped through nearby houses.

Among the dead were 18 members of the national guard and 15 civilians, according to Vice President Elias Jaua, state-run VTV reported. Six of the bodies have not been identified. The toll rose to 41 Sunday when two people died in the hospital. The victims had burns covering 100% of their bodies, said Jesus Valdes, health coordinator at Coromoto hospital.

20 killed in Venezuela prison violence

In total, 209 homes and 11 businesses were damaged, Jaua said.

The refinery -- one of the world's largest -- is part of the giant Paraguana complex in Falcon state.

Venezuela, a founding member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, is one of the world's largest oil exporters.

U.S. gasoline prices rise again

The nation has a refinery capacity of more than 1 million barrels per day, according to OPEC.

The organization said Venezuela's oil revenues represent some 94% of the country's export earnings, more than half of federal budget revenues and some 30% of gross domestic product.

The South American country ships a large percentage of its exports to the United States.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.