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At least 19 dead as blast rocks Venezuela's largest refinery

ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: A large gas explosion shook Venezuela's biggest refinery, the 645,000-barrels-per-day Amuay facility, killing 19 people before dawn on Saturday officials said. Stella Lugo, the governor of Falcon state, said more than 53 other people had been injured, and that a 10-year-old child was among the dead. Officials said the blast was caused by a gas leak and that it had damaged nearby homes along with the refinery complex. Based in the west of the South American OPEC nation, Amuay is part of the Paraguana Refining Center, one of the biggest refinery complexes in the world with an overall capacity of 955,000 bpd. "We have to inform the country that as of 1:15 (0545GMT) this morning an event occurred, an explosion, in the refinery area of Amuay, in the gas fields. There was a gas leak and we will determine its origin. This created a gas cloud that later exploded and it caused fires in at least two tanks at the refinery and in surrounding areas," Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez told state TV. The blast was of a significant magnitude in a way that it caused damage to the infrastructure and homes that wee in front of the refinery, above all to the command of the national guard that was serving the refinery. They are still determining the number of injured, we are not going to be able to give any accurate information until an inspection of the homes has been completed. There are some homes that have been demolished as a result of the explosion and we are entering the area with the civil defense forces and the armed forces," he added. Emergency workers were at the scene, where smoke and flames could be seen over the facility. Both Ramirez and Lugo said the situation was, however, under control several hours after the explosion at about 1 a.m. local time.

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