HICGI News Agency updated at 1153 EAT on Monday 11th October 2021 Beirut, Lebanon
Beirut, Lebanon – A fire has broken out in a fuel storage tank at Lebanon’s Zahrani oil facility.
A spokesperson for the Lebanese Army said that the fuel tank contained benzene.
At least 15 firetrucks are at the oil facility, with firefighters trying to put out the fire while cooling down surrounding tanks to prevent the blaze from spreading.
“We’re now focusing on clearing residents from the area as we try to put out the fire,” the official said. “The priority now is to prevent the fire from reaching other tanks.
The tanks at the Zahrani oil facilities store petrol and diesel that the Lebanese government has purchased.
One of Lebanon’s key power stations is also located in the vicinity.
The Zahrani power plant went out of commission on Saturday after running out of fuel. The Lebanese army donated some of its reserve stock on Sunday.
In late September, a vessel unloaded 16,000 tonnes of Iraqi fuel at the Zahrani facility, the first shipment in a swap deal between Beirut and Baghdad.
In March, then-outgoing Prime Minister Hasan Diab said experts discovered “dangerous chemicals” at a warehouse in the Zahrani oil installations.null
He said German company Combi Lift had reported the matter to Lebanon’s atomic energy authority, which concluded that the material was “nuclear”.null
Combi Lift, however, said there were no concrete results yet, and the issue has not been discussed since.
Monday’s blaze comes just over a year after the massive port blast in Beirut that killed more than 200 people, wounded thousands and destroyed nearby neighbourhoods in the capital.
The fire is another setback for cash-strapped Lebanon as it continues to struggle with a crippling gasoline and fuel crisis that has paralysed public life.
State electricity is virtually non-existent, as most households and businesses rely primarily on private generators.
Fuel prices have been hiked almost weekly, as the government slowly rolls back on expensive subsidies.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati said that resolving the fuel and electricity crisis is one of his government’s key priorities, as he tries to steer Lebanon into recovery from an economic crisis that plunged three-quarters of the population into poverty and devalued the local currency by around 90 percent.