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Chevron paid $10 million in claims from Richmond refinery fire

(Reuters) - Chevron Corp has paid $10 million in claims stemming from the August 6 crude unit fire at its 245,000-barrels-per-day refinery in Richmond, California, the company said.

So far, 23,900 claims have been made due to the blaze that sent a smoke column over San Francisco Bay, according to a letter Chevron sent on Monday to the Contra Costa County Hazardous Materials Program, a local health department.

At least 15,000 people complaining of respiratory problems went to area hospitals in the hours and days after the fire broke out.

In addition to individuals, Chevron said it had paid compensation to area hospitals, city of Richmond agencies and the Contra Costa County Hazardous Materials Program. The compensation to the hospitals and government agencies is for costs incurred in responding to the fire.

The company disclosed the figures in updating the progress of an internal investigation into the fire.

The crude unit, which carries out the initial refining of crude oil coming into the refinery and provides feedstock for all other units, has remained shut since the blaze.

Chevron has said that because of the shut unit, motor fuel output at the refinery has been at least halved, with other production units operating on feedstock the company has bought.

Chevron is repairing the unit and expects to restore full production in the first quarter of this year, the company has said.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health are also investigating the fire.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba in Houston; Editing by Dale Hudson)

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