Today In Manufacturing History: Power Plant Fire Kills 128

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On this day in 1982, a fire broke out in a Venezuela power plant, killing 128 and injuring hundreds more. Some sources say the death count was closer to 200, and about 500 needed hospitalization. 

The Tacoa power plant, just outside the capital city of Caracas, was checking and maintaining gauges on the evening of Dec. 18, when a fire broke out in a tank containing fuel oil. The water supply was not working, so the fire could not be put out right away. Instead, the fire continued through the evening and caused a massive explosion the next morning. 

Because the fire had drawn in spectators, the explosion was even more deadly to those who had gathered to watch. Superheated flaming oil poured down toward a village as a result, as well. Half the city lost electrical power and 40,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes. 

This tragedy led to the action that fuel tanks such as those at the Tacoa power plant were no longer placed within a threatening distance to civilians.