Puerto Rico Oil Explosion Fire Extinguished, Investigation Under WayOct 26, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
The fire from Friday's massive oil explosion outside of San Juan, Puerto Rico has finally been extinguished. Officials from the FBI and other government agencies have now descended on the smoldering Caribbean Petroleum Corp. depot in an attempt to find out what set off the blast.
The explosion at the Caribbean Petroleum Corp. facility, in Catano, Puerto Rico occurred around 12:30 a.m. Friday. According to the Puerto Rico Seismic Network, the blast produced a shock wave equivalent to a 2.8 magnitude earthquake. The explosion was so strong that it tore up a nearby highway, and shattered windows on nearby homes. Twenty-one of 40 storage tanks at the storage facility were affected by the fire. According to the Associate Press, some contained jet fuel, and others supplied Caribbean Petroleum’s 200 Gulf gasoline stations.
The fire produced plumes of thick, black smoke that could be seen for miles. At least 1,500 people living close to the facility were evacuated. Schools in the capital city of San Juan were closed on Friday, and residents were advised to keep windows shut and to stay indoors.
According to Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuno, the blast has cost the Caribbean island at least $6.4 million. Over the weekend, President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency, paving the way for Puerto Rico to receive federal aid.
Yesterday, agents from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were finally able to enter the Caribbean Petroleum facility to begin investigating the cause of the blast. As we reported previously, the site is being treated as a crime scene. Such concerns were raised on Friday after graffiti with the message "Boom, fire, RIP, Gulf" was found scrawled inside a highway tunnel in San Juan. According to the New York Times, similar messages were found at two other sites in and around the city.
According to a press release from the Governor's office, the Puerto Rico Police Department has established a confidential e-mail and phone line, firstname.lastname@example.org and 1-877-703-8346, for anyone with information related to the incident.
The press release also said that the Puerto Rico State Emergency Management and Disaster Administration Agency will coordinate with structural engineers in order to evaluate damages to residences near the blast site and determine, along with the municipality's mayor and municipal personnel, the safety of the structures so that residents can return to their homes.