Huge fire extinguished at oil facility in southern Lebanon

ZAHRANI, Lebanon — Firefighters extinguished a huge blaze that broke out in a storage tank at one of Lebanon’s main oil facilities in the country’s south Monday after it sent orange flames and a thick black column of smoke into the sky.

Energy Minister Walid Fayad said the fire broke out when workers were transferring gasoline from one storage tank to another in the coastal town of Zahrani. He said nearly 250,000 liters of gasoline were burnt during the blaze, which lasted more than three hours. There were no injuries.

The fire came as Lebanon struggles through a serious power crisis that has resulted in electricity cuts lasting up to 22 hours a day.

“The situation now is almost under full control,” Fayad told reporters at the facility. He stated earlier that gasoline had been purchased for the Lebanese Army.

State-run National News Agency said it was not immediately clear what caused the fire.

Lebanese troops had closed the highway linking Beirut with southern Lebanon that passes through Zahrani. After the fire had been extinguished, the road was opened again.

The Zahrani Oil Installation is about 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Beirut. The location is near one of Lebanon’s major power stations. It was shut down two days ago because there was a shortage fuel.

Earlier in the day, the head of the civil defense, Raymound Khattar, told the local MTV station that they believe there were 300,000 liters of gasoline in the tanker. Khattar stated that the work was to extinguish the flames and cool down nearby tanks, in order to prevent it from starting.

In August 2020, a blaze at Beirut’s port triggered a massive explosion that killed at least 215 people, wounded thousands and destroyed the facility and nearby neighborhoods. One of the most destructive non-nuclear blasts was reported at Beirut’s port. It was caused by hundreds upon tons of ammonium Nitrate. This explosive fertilizer material had been stored improperly for many years.

The material has been stored at the facility since the 1950s, when it was run by the Mediterranean Refinery Company, or Medreco. Medreco was an American company whose main shareholders were Mobil and Caltex and it was active in Lebanon for four decades until the late 1980s.

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