Lightning fire halts operations at Venezuelan-run fuel terminal on Caribbean isle of Bonaire

KRALENDIJK, Bonaire (AP) — A huge fire caused by a lightning strike sent up a plume of black smoke Thursday and halted operations at a Venezuelan-owned fuel terminal on the Dutch island of Bonaire. No injuries were reported.

Fire Chief Arthur Dammers, who led a crew of 14 firefighters, said the blaze had been isolated and should be extinguished by Friday morning at the latest.

Flames soared 300 feet (91 meters) above the tank, Dammers said, and were visible across the small, southern Caribbean island that is best known as a destination for divers.

Gov. Glenn Thode said there were no injuries or damage to other parts of the island, and no evacuations were necessary.

Three planes — two from Venezuela and one from the Caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis — were flying in with flame-smothering foam and other portable firefighting equipment, Dammers said.

"The wind is slow, which is very good. So once we get our equipment, we should be able to put it out," he said.

The exteriors of nearby tanks were sprayed with water to cool them off.

Venezuela's state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, owns and operates the terminal for shipments abroad and the local market. The company said operations have been halted by the fire, which was sparked Wednesday when lighting struck a tank containing the oil product naphtha.

On the nearby Dutch island of Curacao, two tanks briefly caught fire Wednesday at a separate fuel terminal owned by Petroleos de Venezuela in Bullen Bay. Lightning is also believed to have caused those blazes, which were extinguished, said Kenneth Gijsbertha, a spokesman for the refinery in Curacao. Gijsbertha said no one was injured.