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Venezuela oil refinery blaze halted

| Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013, 9:18 p.m.
REUTERS
Firefighters try to extinguish a fire at an oil refinery in Puerto La Cruz August 11, 2013. Lightning set fire to a storage tank at Venezuela's Puerto La Cruz oil refinery on Sunday, the president said, and residents were moved out of the immediate area while local media showed images of thick black smoke rising from the facility. Thunderstorms this weekend have drenched much of the South American OPEC nation, which has suffered repeated accidents at its oil refineries in recent years. Lightning bolts ignited two storage tanks at a different refinery just last year.REUTERS/Stringer (VENEZUELA - Tags: DISASTER BUSINESS COMMODITIES TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

CARACAS — Firefighters in Venezuela put out a blaze in a storage tank at an oil refinery that was caused by lightning on Sunday and led to the evacuation of people living nearby, a top official at state oil company PDVSA said.

Thunderstorms this weekend have drenched much of the South American OPEC nation, which has suffered repeated accidents at its oil refineries in recent years. Lightning bolts ignited two storage tanks at a different refinery just last year.

No one was hurt in the fire, but residents within a 0.6-mile radius were moved away from the scene while fire crews fought the blaze in a downpour at the 187,000 barrel-per-day Puerto La Cruz facility in the eastern state of Anzoategui.

“The fire has been completely extinguished,” Asdrubal Chavez, PDVSA's vice president for refining, told state TV.

He congratulated the fire crews for their “sustained effort which allowed us to control this important fire in record time.”

Separately, PDVSA said operations at its 146,000-barrel-per-day El Palito refinery had been stopped on Sunday by a power cut that was also a result of the torrential rains.

President Nicolas Maduro said earlier on Twitter that he was in direct communication with the teams tackling the blaze at Puerto La Cruz. Officials stressed that the evacuation of homes around the refinery was just a precaution.

In one of the global oil industry's worst accidents for decades, a gas leak caused an explosion and fire last year at Venezuela's giant 645,000-barrel-per-day Amuay oil refinery that killed more than 40 people and wrecked hundreds of nearby houses.

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