Steve Angello ft. Robin
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Hold It Against Me
Virginia Lopez and agencies in Paraguaná, Tuesday 28th August 2012 00:48
A fire at a Venezuelan refinery spread to a third fuel tank on Monday, nearly three days after a powerful explosion that killed 41 people and ignited the blaze, the vice-president, Elías Jaua, has reported on Twitter.
Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan president, has angrily denied claims that early warning systems at the country's Amuay oil refinery failed, as locals reported there had been a strong smell of gas before Saturday's deadly explosion in which two refining tanks blew up. An estimated 150 people were injured and 33 remain in hospital.
Falcon state governor, Stella Lugo, told Union Radio on Monday that the death toll had risen to 48, but later said the correct number was 41 and that some victims' names had been mistakenly included twice on a list.
More than 200 homes were reported damaged by the shockwave. Some were across the street from the refinery, which is on a peninsula in the Caribbean Sea in western Venezuela.
Puddles of petroleum mixed with water covered roads in the area. The victims from Saturday's blast included 18 national guard troops. Dozens of people wounded remain in hospital, a national guard general told reporters.
People living close to the refinery have spoken of a dense fog-like cloud descending in the days before the huge explosion, which sent a shockwave tearing through the surrounding area, shattering shops and homes and littering the streets with debris.
"The smell of gas could be normal close to a refinery, especially on a windless day like Friday, but [this] wasn't," said Mario Theis, who worked as operations manager in the Amuay complex for more than 30 years. "At the first hint of a gas leak, sirens should go off and all access roads get closed. It didn't happen."
But Chávez said: "What you say you heard suggests something that is practically impossible in an installation of this kind, the largest refinery in the world. It is completely automatised and it has thousands of responsible workers here day and night, civilians and military.
"There is no way that there could have been a gas leak during three or four days and that no one did anything."
Criticisms of the government's response have emerged from local residents as well as oil experts. "What bothers us is that there was no sign of an alarm. I would have liked for an alarm to have gone off or something," said Luis Suarez, a bank employee in the neighbourhood. "Many of us woke up thinking it was an earthquake."
Opposition politicians have called for the minister of energy to step down from his post, but this is unlikely as Chávez recently publicly ratified him "for the next six years".