Two fires broke out simultaneously in a small northeastern city in Colombia near the border of Venezuela, one in a courtyard where contraband gasoline was being illegally stored, local news reported Monday.
The first fire occurred late Sunday night in the courtyard of a house in the Santander district of the small border city, Maicao. When two large tanks that stored allegedly smuggled fuel exploded, flames apparently reached over 100 feet in the air, causing panic in the community and surrounding area, according to reports by El Diaro de Norte.
The paper also reported Maicao has one firehouse, but as it lacks proper assistance or equipment, firemen have abandoned it.
Gasoline explosions have been occurring with relative frequency in Maicao, opening a debate about both contraband smuggling and the city’s poorly equipped firehouse, which is unable to respond to emergencies.
When a car also burst into flames in Maicao on Sunday night, local police reported the conflagration. However, having no fire department, neighbors had to use dirt and soapy water to extinguish the fire and prevent it from sweeping to the other vehicles parked nearby.
On March 10, three people were injured after a van full of smuggled gasoline exploded. One of the victims, a child, died in a clinic in Santa Marta days later as a result of burns he suffered.
El Heraldo released a video on Monday showing a night-time bust on tanks containing gasoline, reporting that it was the first in an ongoing police operation to crack down on illegal smuggling.
There have been six large fires in Maicao so far in 2014, costing hundreds of thousands in damages, and posing a threat to a community that hosts a thriving border business of combustible contraband, and an empty firehouse.
- Pánico en Maicao por dos incendios simultáneos y sin presencia de bomberos (El Diario del Norte)
- Se incendió otro patio de almacenamiento ilegal de combustible (Guajira Hoy)
- Operativo en depósito de gasolina de contrabando en Maicao (El Heraldo)