On the morning of Saturday, April 25, 2020, the GOES-East satellite spied dark, dense smoke billowing from the city of Bachaquero, along the eastern coast of Lake Maracaibo in the Venezuelan state of Zulia.
Preliminary reports by the local fire department stated the fire started around 9:00 a.m. local time due to traces of “oil accumulated in a well” near a pier belonging to the state-owned oil and natural gas company, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). The flames then spread to surrounding vegetation and brush, which also contained traces of oil, before igniting an artificial reservoir that contained crude oil next to an adjacent storage tank facility.
The column of dense smoke alarmed the community, and local workers, as well as fishermen offshore, were evacuated from the area. More than 50 firefighters from the Valmore Rodríguez, Lagunillas, Baralt, and Cabimas municipalities, with the support of PDVSA firefighters, worked to quell the flames. There were no reported injuries.
After reviewing aerial imagery of the damage, TankerTrackers.com, Inc. concluded that the oil storage tanks are still intact. They also confirmed that the main fire took place in the “river” (reservoir) of heavy crude oil running parallel along the edge of the lake.
The GOES-East geostationary satellite, also known as GOES-16, keeps watch over most of North America, including the continental United States and Mexico, as well as Central and South America, the Caribbean, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west coast of Africa. The satellite's high-resolution imagery provides optimal viewing of weather events, including thunderstorms, tropical storms, hurricanes, and smoke from fires.