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Investigation of Puerto Rico Oil Explosion Underway

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Federal agents are combing through the Caribbean Petroleum Corp. storage facility outside San Juan, Puerto Rico to determine what set off Friday’s massive explosion and fire.  The blaze at the facility was finally extinguished yesterday.

At least 60 agents from the  FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are at the blast site, and it is being treated as a crime scene.  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, refineria@policia.gobierno.pr and 1-877-703-8346, for anyone with information related to the incident.

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.

The Governor’s office 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.

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