Five die in Curacao oil tanker blast-official

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WILLEMSTAD, Curacao, Sep 20 (Reuters) At least five people were killed in an explosion on an oil tanker under repair in the main port of the Caribbean island Curacao today, a shipyard official said.

Firefighters sought to put the out the blaze that sent flames shooting into the air from the Mexican-flagged ship that was carrying no cargo at the time of the explosion, Farly Hernandez, the Dockmascaapei shipyard director told Reuters.

The five people killed had been working on land by the tanker, whose hull was being repaired, and it was feared there were more casualties among people on board the ship, he added.

''We assume from what the firefighters are saying that there are more people on board,'' he said.

Local media with journalists reporting from the area said about 11 people died.

Shipping officials said the ship had earlier been transporting oil products, such as gasoline.

A self-governing part of the Netherlands, Curacao is a major tourist destination due to its white-sand beaches, crystalline waters and popular casinos.

The island, just off the west coast of Venezuela, has a 320,000 barrel-per-day refinery, La Isla, operated by Venezuelan state company, PDVSA. It generates heavy oil shipping traffic.

PDVSA officials said they did not immediately have details about the tanker incident.

REUTERS GT ND2334

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