10/11/2021, 17.25
LEBANON
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Tank at Zahrani oil installation on fire, power restored after blackout

The causes of the fire remain unknown. Although no casualties or injuries have been reported, the area was evacuated for safety reasons. An eyewitness heard a “loud explosion” followed by the “outbreak of a fire". The tank contained 200,000 litres of petrol. After hours of blackout over the week-end, there are supplies for “at least three days”.

 

Beirut (AsiaNews) – A large fire broke out early this morning in a petrol tank at the Zahrani Oil Installation, on the coast of southern Lebanon. Fire brigade teams are still working to extinguish the flames.

The cause of the fire is still unknown, but no casualties nor injuries have been reported. As a precaution, the Lebanese army and civil defence have evacuated the area for fear of further explosions. 

The road that runs along the plant has been closed and traffic diverted to a nearby highway, which reopened after a brief interruption for safety reasons.

A local farmer told AFP that he heard a “loud explosion” followed by “the outbreak of a fire”. 

According to Lebanese Energy Minister Walid Fayyad, the petrol tank involved in the accident belongs to the army and rescue efforts “contained” much of the fire, even though the flames continue to burn.

The tank contained at least 300,000 litres of petrol, said General Raymond Khattar, head of the Fire Department of Lebanon’s Civil Defence agency.

Now the goal is to prevent the fire from reaching other tanks or storage facilities in the surrounding area.

An investigation has already been launched into the incident, which is the latest in a string that began with the devastating double explosion at the port of Beirut in August 2020.

Since then, the country has been gripped by a serious energy crisis, culminating in a total, country-wide blackout over the week-end that lasted several hours, triggering a mixture of panic and resignation among the population.

According to the president of the oil installation union, workers are safe and the situation is "under control".

Imported fuel reserves are stored in the area, from which it is distributed across the country. 

Last Saturday, the Zahrani power plant, which is next to the storage facilities, was closed, like that of Deir Ammar, in the north, after it ran out of fuel.

Amid widespread shortages, the shutdown cut the total power supply to below 270 megawatts, which means a major drop in the stability of the grid, causing the country-wide outage.

As a result of Lebanon’s energy crisis, consumers have often been left with no more than two hours of power a day.

To help cope with the situation, the Lebanese army donated six million litres of fuel from its own reserves, distributed among the various power plants, to boost capacity from 300 MW to 500 MW.

This will allow Électricité du Liban (ÉDL) to operate the grid for “at least three days”. Meanwhile, the Energy Ministry announced that it received a loan of US$ 100 million from the central bank to buy fuel to keep power stations operating.

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