December 18

This Day in History

Disaster

Dec 18, 1982:

Power plant burns in Venezuela

A power plant fire begins in Venezuela on this day in 1982. By the time it ended, the fire killed 128 people and injured hundreds more. Half the capital city of Caracas lost electrical power and 40,000 people had to be evacuated.

The large Tacoa power plant on the outskirts of Caracas was going through the process of checking and maintaining its gauges on the night of December 18 when a fire broke out in Tank 8, which was filled with No.6 fuel oil. It could not be put out immediately because the water supply didn't work. Instead, it raged on into the night and, early the next morning, caused a huge explosion. The explosion was particularly deadly because spectators from the village below the plant had gathered to watch the fire. To make matters worse, the superheated flaming oil poured down the hillside toward a village.

As the fire burned out of control, 40,000 area residents had to be evacuated from their homes and much of Caracas was without electricity. The official death count was 128, though some sources put the number at closer to 200. In addition, approximately 500 people required hospitalization.

In the aftermath, fuel tanks like those at the Tacoa plant were no longer placed where they could threaten civilian populations.

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