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FBI: No sabotage in Puerto Rico tank explosion

By DANICA COTO (AP) – 1 day ago
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The FBI said Friday there is no evidence of sabotage in last week’s explosion at a Puerto Rico fuel depot, which burned for more than two days and forced the evacuation of hundreds of people. Gasoline vapors from an overflowing fuel tank caused the blast at the Caribbean Petroleum Corp. facility near the U.S. territory’s capital, San Juan, according to Luis Fraticelli, the FBI special agent in charge for the island. He said more than 240 investigators analyzed the explosion and did not find evidence it was intentional. But Fraticelli said authorities are still investigating whether negligence was involved. “Since this is a federal investigation, the word ‘accident’ will not be used,” Fraticelli said at a news conference.

The explosion shortly after midnight on Oct. 23 shattered windows and sent tremors across San Juan. The fire destroyed 21 of the depot’s 40 fuel storage tanks and sent up a plume of thick, toxic smoke. More than 1,500 people were evacuated out of fears of contamination, but there were no deaths. Immediately before the blast, a tanker ship had released nearly 28,000 gallons (106,000 liters) of fuel into the tanks, and an undetermined amount spilled into a drainage ditch that is capable of handling a 10 percent overflow, said ATF spokesman Marcial Orlando Felix.

The fuel released a large amount of vapor, and one of three items could have caused the spark, although Felix declined to name them because officials have not pinpointed the source. Federal and local agents questioned more than 100 people, including company employees, and investigated leads including graffiti found after the blast in a highway tunnel in the capital with the message: “Boom, fire, RIP, Gulf.”

Agents also are investigating what security systems were in place to prevent such an explosion and why apparently no alarms were activated, Felix said. The explosion damaged more than 200 homes, and crews have installed new doors and windows and repaired walls, Gov. Luis Fortuno said. Twelve homes required more extensive repairs, and six will be partially or completely torn down. President Barack Obama had designated Puerto Rico an emergency zone and ordered federal aid to supplement local efforts.

Caribbean Petroleum spokeswoman Frances Rios said the company is cooperating with authorities, and crews have built dikes and contained toxic material to prevent further contamination of water sources.
Caribbean Petroleum supplies 200 Gulf gas stations in Puerto Rico.
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