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Update: Fuel tanker fire extinguished in Gulf of Mexico

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A fuel tanker ship burned out of control Sunday in the Gulf of Mexico and started to leak, setting the water on fire, authorities said.

[MEXICO CITY] A massive fire that burned for more than 24 hours aboard a fuel tanker ship loaded with thousands of barrels of oil on board was put out Sunday without having caused spills, a Mexican state-owned oil company said.

The 31 crew members of the oil firm Pemex’s Burgos tanker were safely evacuated. The vessel, which burned just off the eastern port city of Veracruz, was carrying more than 160,000 barrels of diesel and gasoline.

Pemex, navy and other crews worked to put out the flames. Equipment and personnel were deployed from around the country, and Pemex also relied on fire control advisers from Houston, Texas.

Pemex spokesman Israel de la Pena told AFP that the fire was put out late Sunday, but about 100 emergency relief workers were still monitoring the boat.

Earlier, navy firefighting official Antonio Chedraui had said there was fire on the water, “a sign that the fuel is leaking”. But Pemex CEO Jose Antonio Anaya denied there had been any environmental damage.

The ship “has a double hull that prevents the fuel it carries from being spilled,” Mr Anaya told a press conference.

He said environmental authorities found no spills in the Gulf of Mexico.

About 70,000 litres of foaming liquid were deployed and 3,200 metres of containment barrier were prepared in case fuel had spilled into the sea, according to Mr Anaya.

It was not immediately clear what caused the fire.

Mr Chedraui had said it took four hours to get special fire-retardant foam to the site of the fire, and Pemex was also slow in setting up floating containment barriers to prevent the spill from spreading.