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Puerto Rico Gas Facility Explosion Prompts Evacuations

Oct 23, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

The area around San Juan, Puerto Rico has been rocked by an explosion at the Caribbean Petroleum Corp. gasoline warehouse and distribution center.  The blast, which occurred around 12:30 a.m., ignited a massive fire. While only minor injuries have been reported, the area around the Caribbean Petroleum Corp. facility was evacuated.

The facility is located in Catano, Puerto Rico, which is located just across the bay from San Juan.  The Caribbean Petroleum Corp. is the owner of the Gulf brand in Puerto Rico.  According to Reuters, jet fuel, bunker fuel and gasoline is stored at the facility.

According to the Associated Press, 11 of more than 30 tanks at the facility had exploded.  Several columns of black smoke and flames could be seen rising from the facility from several miles away.  The explosion also tore up a nearby highway.  

The fire at the facility intensified in the hours after the initial explosion, and according to the Associated Press,  it will be several days before the fire is extinguished.  Fire crews were chilling the remaining tanks in an effort to keep them from exploding, and dozens of fuel trucks in the area were being moved as a precaution.

Officials at Caribbean Petroleum reported that all employees there were safe.  However, according to the Associated Press, several people in cars that were driving near the facility at the time of the blast did report minor injuries.  There were no fatalities.

People living downwind of the smoke are being evacuated, and nearby residents are being advised to keep their windows shut.  According to the Associated Press, the thick smoke also prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to implement a temporary flight restriction over the area.  Schools in the vicinity are closed today, and Puerto Ricans are being asked to avoid the area so that roads can be kept clear for emergency vehicles.

It is not yet known what caused the explosion.  FBI agents are among those investigating, the Associated Press said.

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