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Explosion, Fire Rip Through Oil Refinery

April 2, 1996

MARTINEZ, Calif. (AP) _ A series of major explosions and fire rocked a Shell Oil refinery Monday, rattling nearby homes and sending flames into the sky. There were no injuries.

``I felt a rumble first and then I looked outside and saw the light in the sky,″ said John Taylor, 33, who lives several blocks from the industrial waterfront area dominated by clusters of refineries.

``It was just big, big black balls of smoke,″ Taylor said.

A red glow from the flames was visible 10 miles away.

County health officials warned residents to stay indoors and avoid inhaling smoke. No evacuations were ordered.

The explosions began just before 7 p.m. in the refinery’s light oil processing area, Shell spokeswoman Tomi Van de Brooke said. No employees were injured.

The fire was extinguished about three hours later.

The cause of the explosion was unknown.

``It was a big boom and our house shook. I thought maybe it might have been an earthquake,″ said 13-year-old Anthony Senko. ``I looked over here toward Shell and I saw a big flame so I ran over there.″

It was the second explosion in the area in two months. A hydrogen pipeline exploded Feb. 1 at a nearby plant that makes steam to heat Shell’s refinery. Two workers suffered minor injuries in that explosion.

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