Huge flames rise over the Amuay refinery near the city of Punto Fijo, Venezuela, August 25, 2012.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has declared three days of mourning following the lethal explosion in the country's largest refinery, which claimed the lives of dozens of people.
“This affects all of us. It’s very sad, very painful,” Chavez said by phone on state television.
The Venezuelan president called for a thorough investigation into the cause of the tragic incident at the Amuay plant, located on the Paraguana Peninsula in the northwestern Falcon State.
Chavez also pledged to provide the required assistance for those affected in the incident.
According to Vice President Elias Jaua, who has traveled to the area, 39 people, including a 10-year-old child and 18 National Guard troops, were killed and over 80 people were wounded in the Saturday explosion.
The blast also inflicted damage to hundreds of homes and shops nearby. However, the emergency officials say the worst is over and the fire is now under control.
Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said the explosion was sparked by a gas leak, the cause of which was not known.
Venezuela is South America’s biggest oil producing nation and the Amuay refinery, one of the biggest in the world, produces 645,000 barrels of crude a day.