Ten thousand residents of the city of Maracay in the central state of Aragua were temporarily evacuated from their homes in response to a sudden explosion of an arms depot that rocked the city early Sunday morning, leaving one person dead and three others injured.
The blast occurred at 4:30 am in the Venezuelan Military Industry Company (CAVIM) of Maracay and lit up the sky as ﬂames engulfed three warehouses, detonating munitions of all types.
Evelyn Marrero, 36-year old mother of three and resident of the area, died while at home from shrapnel projected from the blast.
“I very much regret this event, this tragedy”, said President Hugo Chavez during a tour of the affected zone on Sunday. “We’ve lost a fellow Venezuelan, a neighbor of the area…This is the saddest part of everything that has happened”, he said.
No immediate cause for the explosion has been determined by Venezuelan authorities, who have launched a full investigation into the incident.
Without venturing a hypothesis as to the cause, Chavez referred to the blast as “strange”.
“It’s the least that I can say about a ﬁre that takes place at 4 am”, he said
PROTECTING SURROUNDING AREAS
Schools have been indeﬁnitely closed and residential areas on the outskirts of the depot have been evacuated to allow search teams to collect any errant munitions that may have been projected from the warehouses.
According to General Cliver Cordones, Commander of the 4th Armored Division of Maracay, the evacuation “will be maintained until security in the streets and schools can be fully guaranteed after an exhaustive search by the state’s security bodies”.
All damage to private property will be repaired by the government, assured Aragua Governor Rafael Isea.
“We’re going to determine the damages and assume the costs of housing repairs. These repairs will be carried out swiftly”, he said
Chavez highlighted on Sunday the role that the ﬁreﬁghters who confronted the blaze played in controlling the situation and preventing further danger.
“An event such as this could have produced a much bigger tragedy. I’m here to recognize the tremendous efforts that [the ﬁre-ﬁghters] have made. I feel very proud of you”, he said.
This is the ﬁrst time since CAVIM was created in 1975 that such an event has occurred.
In order to ensure greater residential security, over the past ﬁve years, the government has been transferring arms away from the CAVIM facility to sites of greater security.
“We arrived and we began, ﬁve years ago, to transfer thousands and thousands of war munitions to more secure areas. Seventy-ﬁve percent of the arms from here have been sent to other sites”, Chavez explained on Sunday, calling for ofﬁcials to quicken their efforts to transfer all remaining arms.
“Count on all of my support to hasten all the plans necessary to ﬁnish removing all the munitions from here”, he added.