President Hugo Chavez said Venezuela’s biggest oil refinery is on track to restart all its operations within two days. The announcement was also confirmed by the energy minister.
“I am very painful and full of regret,” said Chavez.
“I am trying to reach the nearest site, although the officers told me not to do it. I will risk myself to know the reasons of the death of a group of Venezuelans,” said Chavez
“There was a leak. The gas formed a cloud and it exploded. We must investigate why,” said Chavez.
The president has declared three days of mourning.
Residents in a neighborhood next to the Amuay refinery said that starting about 7 p.m. on Friday they noticed the unusually strong gas odor – and then hours later (01:11 (05:41 GMT)) came the shock wave.
Juan Carlos Chirinos, a student, said he was in a nightclub when the explosion happened.
“I lost my balance and a bunch of us fell to the floor,” he said. “Everyone thought it was an earthquake or a car bomb outside. There were windows broken everywhere. It was total chaos.”
According to local media, more than 200 homes and 11 businesses were damaged by the powerful blast.
The toll jumped to 41 on Sunday after two people who sustained extensive burns in the blast succumbed to their injuries.
Venezuela has the world’s biggest certified oil reserves.
Amuay is among the world’s largest refineries and is part of the Paraguana Refinery Complex – the world’s second largest refinery complex, just after Jamnagar Refinery in India. As of 2012, it refines 955 thousand barrels per day (151,800 m3/d).