Large-scale fire extinguished at an oil facility in Southern Lebanon

Zafrani, Lebanon — Firefighters extinguished a huge flame in a storage tank at one of Lebanon’s major oil facilities on Monday south of the country. The fire sent an orange flame and a thick pillar of black smoke into the sky.

Energy Minister Walid Fayad said a fire broke out while workers were transferring gasoline from one storage tank to another in the coastal town of Zahrani. He said about 250,000 liters (66,000 gallons) of gasoline were burned during a flame that lasted more than three hours. No injuries have been reported.

The fire broke out when the underfunded Lebanon suffered a serious power crisis. This is due to a serious shortage of fuel that caused power outages of up to 22 hours a day.

“Currently, the situation is almost completely controlled,” Fayad told reporters at the facility. He previously stated that the storage tank was for Lebanese military use.

The state-owned national news agency said the cause of the fire was not immediately apparent.

Lebanese troops have closed the highway connecting Beirut and Southern Lebanon through Zaharani. After the fire was extinguished, the road was reopened.

The Zahrani Oil Facility is approximately 50 km (30 miles) south of Beirut. It is close to one of Lebanon’s major power plants, which shut down two days ago due to lack of fuel.

Earlier that day, Civil Defense Officer Raymound Hatter told a local MTV station that he believed the tanker contained 300,000 liters (79,250 gallons) of gasoline. Khattar added that workers are focusing on extinguishing fires and cooling nearby tank trucks to prevent them from catching fire.

Firefighters work to put out the fire
Firefighters are extinguishing a fire on October 11, 2021 at an oil facility in the southern town of Zaharani, south of the port city of Sidon in Lebanon. (Hassan Ammar / AP Photo)

Earlier this summer, a warehouse fire in the northern part of the country where fuel was illegally stored killed more than 20 people and seriously injured dozens more. It was one of the worst tragedy that hit Lebanon. Lebanon is tackling multiple crises and serious fuel shortages.

In August 2020, a flame at the port of Beirut caused a major explosion, killing at least 215 people, injuring thousands and destroying facilities and neighborhoods. One of the largest non-nuclear explosions ever reported, the Beirut harbor explosion, was made of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive substance used in fertilizers that had been improperly stored for years. Caused by hundreds of tons.

Beirut explosion
The scene of the explosion in Beirut on August 4, 2020. (Anwar Amro / AFP via Getty Images)

Earlier this year, a German company discovered dangerous nuclear material stored in Zaharani’s facility. Eight small containers weighing less than 2 kilograms (4.4 lbs) containing depleted uranium salt were then removed shortly thereafter.

The material has been stored in the facility since it was operated by the Mediterranean Refinery Company (Medreco) in the 1950s. Medreco is an American company with mobile and Caltex as its main shareholders and was active in Lebanon for 40 years until the late 1980s.

By Fadi Tawil

Associated Press