Latin America & Caribbean

Fire at Venezuela's Puerto La Cruz oil refinery 'over'

Fire at Puerto La Cruz oil refinery, Venezuela (11 August)
Image caption A storage tank at the Puerto La Cruz refinery was hit by lightning, sparking the blaze

The vice-president of the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, Asdrubal Chavez, has said the blaze at one of the country's largest oil refineries has been extinguished.

Officials say lightning sparked the fire at a storage tank of the Puerto La Cruz refinery, sending large plumes of black smoke into the sky and leading to the evacuation of the surrounding area.

The authorities say no one was injured.

An explosion at the country's largest refinery killed 55 people last year.

The Puerto La Cruz refinery can produce nearly 200,000 barrels of oil a day.

Production 'not affected'

Production has not been affected by Sunday's blaze, Mr Chavez said.

Soon after a storage tank was reportedly hit by lightning at 15:15 local time (19:45GMT), authorities ordered the evacuation of residents within 1km (half a mile) of the plant on the Caribbean coast as a precaution.

Large thunderstorms are currently drenching the country, says the BBC's Irene Caselli, in Caracas.

Many residents were seen abandoning the area and posted pictures of black smoke billowing from the refinery on social media websites.

After teams on the ground fought the fire for more than two hours, President Nicolas Maduro wrote on Twitter that the fire had been "controlled".

Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world.

A year ago, an explosion at the country's largest refinery killed 55 people and halted production.

The Puerto La Cruz refinery is one of six PDVSA facilities operating in Venezuela.

More on this story