Fire and explosion at Argentine oil plant affects output

No victims, but production down considerably

An oil tank exploded at a treatment plant run by state energy company YPF on Saturday, affecting more than 3 percent of the firm’s total output of crude but leaving no fatalities, the company said.

YPF said its nearby Lujan de Cuyo refinery, which produces 106,000 barrels of oil per day, was drawing on oil from back-up deposits and operating normally.

Local TV broadcast images of a large oil tank ablaze at the Cerro Divisadero treatment plant in the province of Mendoza, around 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) southwest of Buenos Aires.

The company said the fire and explosion affected the entire treatment complex, forcing the closure of ten deposits that produce 1,460 cubic meters (51,559 cubic feet) of crude per day. The treatment tanks at the plant produce 3.8 percent of YPF’s total output.

"The fire started midday on Friday in one of the plant’s oil tanks," YPF said in a statement. "The company activated its contingency plan and told provincial and national authorities and is at this time working with them to control the situation."

The plant was evacuated and 14 people received medical attention, YPF said.

Six fire-fighting airplanes were dispatched to control the fire and make sure a nearby river was not polluted, YPF said.

But nightfall would put the work of the planes on hold until Sunday morning, an official with the local government of Malargue said. Temperatures near the fire were too high to allow firemen to combat the blaze on foot.

Meteorologists said strong winds were quickly spreading toxic smoke.

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