July 29, 2019 / 3:05 PM / 21 days ago

Thousands of barrels of crude set on fire, Colombia's Ecopetrol says

BOGOTA, July 29 (Reuters) - Unknown persons have set fire to storage pools containing some 2,600 barrels worth of oil at a facility in eastern Arauca province, Colombia’s state-run oil company Ecopetrol said on Monday.

The company and its transport subsidiary Cenit said in a statement the “deliberate” fire began close to 5 a.m. local time (1000 GMT) at a storage area in Arauquita municipality.

A blockade in the area was preventing the entrance of firefighters and technical staff, the statement added, putting local communities and workers at risk.

Ecopetrol did not clarify where the blockade was taking place or who was conducting it.

The storage pools are used on a temporary basis to store crude drained from the Cano Limon pipeline after frequent bomb attacks.

The pipeline has been hit 25 times this year, Ecopetrol said, 15 of which have taken place in Arauca, which borders Venezuela.

Extractive projects in Colombia regularly face protests and security threats, including bomb attacks attributed to the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels.

Ecopetrol lost some $100 million over the course of a month in 2018 when protesters angered by alleged labor agreement violations blocked roads, invaded oilfields and burned buildings, including a control room. (Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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