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Venezuelan refinery ablaze after lightning strike

From Marysabel Huston-Crespo, CNN
August 12, 2013 -- Updated 1412 GMT (2212 HKT)
Partial view of the refinery of Guaraguao after a fire broke when a lightning struck a treatment pond, August 11, 2013.
Partial view of the refinery of Guaraguao after a fire broke when a lightning struck a treatment pond, August 11, 2013.
  • NEW: Venezuela's president says he's monitoring the situation
  • NEW: Video shows a column of thick, black smoke rising above the facility
  • Lightning strikes at a Venezuelan refinery, sparking a fire
  • An official says no injuries have been reported from the blast and subsequent blaze

(CNN) -- Firefighters were battling a blaze at a Venezuelan refinery Sunday after a lightning strike, a top official in the country's state oil company said.

Lightning struck Sunday afternoon at a Petroleos de Venezuela refinery in the northern city of Puerto La Cruz, causing an explosion and subsequent fire, company Vice President Asdrubal Chavez said.

No injuries have been reported, Chavez said. Authorities are evacuating residents who live near the refinery, Anzoategui state Gov. Aristobulo Isturiz said.

Officials said lightning struck a pond at the refinery around 3:15 p.m. Sunday.

Video of the scene shows bright orange flames shooting up from the ground and a column of thick, black smoke rising far above the refinery.

In a Twitter post, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he was in close contact with teams on the ground.

The state oil company describes the Puerto La Cruz refinery as one of its "most important centers of crude oil processing."

About 1,000 workers are based at the facility, the company said.

Report: Venezuela's state-run refineries afflicted by mismanagement

CNN's Claudia Rebaza and Ana Melgar contributed to this report.

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