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VENEZUELA’S oil minister has warned of “terrorism” and said the government was investigating a “sabotage against the people” following Saturday’s explosion at an oil plant in Miranda state.
The blast at the state-run natural gas-filling plant led to the temporary evacuation of 6,500 residents of Ocumare del Tuy on Saturday evening.
Smoke was seen billowing into the sky after the explosion. Miranda state governor Hector Rodriguez Castro said that one worker had been injured and was being treated in a local hospital.
State authorities said residents of the Lomas de Guadalupe and Ciudad Betania neighbourhoods have now been able to return home after they were initially evacuated to shelters.
“We have deployed a security operation in these neighbourhoods to protect the belongings of these families,” a local official said.
Mayor of Landar Genkere Tovar confirmed the fire was under control with no loss of life.
“We ask the community to remain calm,” he said.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro confirmed an investigation was under way into the cause of the explosion, hinting at possible foul play.
Venezuelan oil minister and president of the state-owned Petrol of Venezuela (PDVSA) Manuel Quevedo said that there were contingency plans in place to guarantee the supply of gas.
But he said the government “denounces the terrorist from the right behind this sabotage against the people.”
A similar explosion that damaged an pipeline in Anzoategui state in April raised eyebrows with suggestions that it was a deliberate attack designed to disrupt Venezuela’s oil supply.
It followed repeated incidents of sabotage on the country’s power grid, which caused nationwidepower outages.
The attacks were branded “terrorism” by the Venezuelan government and coincided with an Washington-backed coup attempt led by hapless president of the defunct National Assembly Juan Guaido.
Mr Guaido has made numerous failed attempts at launching armed insurrection, with the Venezuelan people and its armed forces remaining loyal to Mr Maduro and the Bolivarian government.
The US has since switched focus, escalating its punitive sanctions regime to a near total economic blockade on Venezuela.
A “No More Trump” petition launched to oppose the US imposed embargo reached five million signatures on Thursday — half of its 10 million target.
Once it reaches that figure it will be presented to the United Nations general assembly as it meets on September 17 in New York.
Mr Maduro said: “We have reached five million signatures … to tell US imperialism enough of this blockade and aggression.”
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