World Bulletin / News Desk
Venezuelan firefighters completely extinguished a blaze at the country's largest refinery on Tuesday, state oil company PDVSA said, following a blast that killed nearly 50 people in one of the most deadly oil industry accidents in decades.
The 645,000-barrel-per-day facility could restart operations on Friday, Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez told Reuters in an exclusive interview on Monday.
The explosion on Saturday at Amuay killed 48 people and helped pushed up U.S. fuel prices in markets that were already bullish because of a threat that Tropical Storm Isaac could disrupt refinery operations on the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Traders say the impact on fuel markets may continue even after Amuay is up and running again. Tank farm accidents often cause problems with gasoline blending, which means PDVSA may have to boost imports.
Chavez said at the scene on Monday that he was creating a fund worth about $23 million to help pay for clean-up operations and replace homes destroyed by the pre-dawn blast.
It was one of the most deadly oil industry accidents in recent years, nearing the toll of the 1997 fire at India's Visakhapatnam refinery that killed 56 and topping the 2005 blast at BP Plc's Texas City refinery in which 15 people died.