Fire continues to burn at the Salina Cruz refinery. Fire continues to burn at the Salina Cruz refinery.

Refinery fire kills 1, continues burning

Residents report black rain; health officials warn against skin contact

A Pemex refinery fire reported to be under control yesterday is still burning and has caused the death of a firefighter.

The state oil company announced this morning that Martín Alberto Balderas died while fighting the blaze at the company’s refinery in Salina Cruz, Oaxaca. His body was discovered early this morning.

Pemex chief José Antonio González Anaya said last night there were no fatalities, although two workers had been reported missing.

Earlier in the day the company said nine people had been injured, but all were later released after receiving medical treatment.

He and state Governor Alejandro Murat Hinojosa toured the facility yesterday and gave a press conference later.

González said the fire, which started yesterday morning, was under control but not out. Pemex said this morning about 80 firefighters were continuing to fight the blaze.

Unofficial reports say the fire has consumed 500,000 liters of crude oil, which leaked from one of 14 storage tanks.

The refinery had been under water after flooding caused by tropical storm Calvin, which made landfall Monday west of the facility.

Although a Pemex spokesman said yesterday there was no danger to the public from the fire, Civil Protection officials evacuated 3,000 residents from homes near the refinery.

They said the intention was to prevent them from being exposed to the smoke, not because of any fire danger, said a spokesman.

Residents were reporting black rain yesterday that left streets, vehicles and buildings painted black and caused irritation to the eyes, according to a report by the newspaper El Universal.

The sight caused panic among many people, some of whom fled the city.

State health authorities issued a warning to residents to avoid skin contact with the rainwater, the report said.

Source: Milenio (sp), El Universal (sp)

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