One of the largest in the world, Amuay refinery, was rocked by an explosion which killed about 39 people, including a 10-year-old boy. 17 of the 39 dead victims were National Guard troops stationed at a post next to the refinery. More than 80 people were also injured, nine of them seriously. About 77 people suffered light injuries and they have been released from the hospital. Government officials pledged to restart the refinery within two days and said the country has plenty of fuel supplies on hand to meet its domestic needs as well as its export commitments.
President Hugo Chavez declared three days of mourning in the country. Chavez said he ordered a "deep investigation" to determine what caused the explosion.
Officials said firefighters had controlled the flames at the refinery on the Paraguana Peninsula, where clouds of dark smoke were still billowing at noon.