An explosion rocked Venezuela's largest refinery in the wee hours of Saturday, leaving at least 19 dead and 53 injured, officials said.

Stella Lugo, governor of the northwestern state of Falcon where the 645,000-barrel-per-day Amuay refinery is located, had earlier told state-run VTV television that seven people were killed but subsequently announced the higher death toll.

She said a 10-year-old boy was among the fatalities, the state-run AVN news agency reported.

The governor said the fire produced by the blast had been brought under control and that the injured had been taken to public hospitals and private clinics in the area.

The large explosion stemming from a gas leak occurred just after 1:00 a.m. Saturday at Amuay, one of three refineries that make up the Paraguana Refinery Complex, one of the world's largest, causing fires at two tanks.

The shock wave from the blast caused damage to nearby homes.

Lugo had told VTV earlier Saturday morning that there was "still a lot of panic among the population. People are very frightened," although the affected area had been evacuated and firefighters and emergency services personnel were working at the scene.

"There's still a very tall fire" at the refinery because the oil is being consumed, but "there's no risk" of new explosions, the governor said.

Earlier, Oil and Mining Minister Rafael Ramirez said the explosion generated a powerful shock wave that caused significant damage to some infrastructure and homes, some of which collapsed.

The explosion occurred in a section of the refinery where different types of gases are deposited as part of the industrial process.

Ramirez said firefighters were battling the blaze and had ruled out any possibility of it expanding further, while military and oil industry personnel were carrying out inspections in the area to identify the injured. EFE