December 11, 2017
Friday, December 23, 2011

Fuel pipeline blast kills 11 in Colombia

Rescue workers search for survivors under the rubble following the explosion. (Photo credit:

A huge explosion at a gasoline and diesel pipeline in Colombia killed 11 people, injured at least 70, and destroyed dozens of homes on Friday, in an incident described by President Juan Manuel Santos as a "great tragedy."

The explosion at a pipeline controlled by Colombia's state-owned Ecopetrol was first blamed on fuel thieves, but Santos later said it was too early to speculate on what caused the blast.

"This really is a great tragedy ... For the time being there are 11 people dead, 78 injured, of which about nine or ten are in critical condition," Santos said during a visit to the village of Dosquebradas in the western region of Risaralda, adding that there were many children among the injured.

"We don't know yet what caused this tragedy. It's being investigated, we'll probably be able to establish the cause (later) today," he said, surrounded by blackened houses, while firefighters searched for survivors among the debris.

Ecopetrol issued an statement earlier on Friday saying that fuel thieves probably caused the blast.

"Ecopetrol regrets the incident in which several people were killed and others injured when an explosion occurred in the Salgar-Cartago pipeline ... apparently caused by people who were stealing fuel," the company said.

The pipeline is about 140 miles (230 kms) long and links Salgar, in the center of the country, to western regions.

"It is a enormous disgrace because people have been warned that they must not interfere with the pipeline," the mayor of Dosquebradas, Luz Ensueno Betancur, told reporters.

The Mining and Energy Ministry says the number of fuel thefts has fallen in recent years as the military has clamped down on illegal groups, who in the past financed themselves largely by stealing and selling crude oil, gasoline and diesel.

Colombia, once dismissed as a failing state, has been improving its image by combating leftist rebels and attracting foreign investment through looser regulations, a more streamlined hydrocarbons agency, and lower taxes.

However, illegal armed groups, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrillas, are still powerful; and attacks against oil and mining companies have picked up this year.

Colombia's national oil production has ramped up to a record 950,000 barrels per day as the improving security situation has allowed greater exploitation of heavy crude areas, in addition to incremental production increases at existing fields.



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Tags:  Colombia  burst  oil  fuel  steal  Pereira  

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