Middle East Eye

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Massive fire engulfs fuel trucks on Iran-Afghanistan border

Dozens of oil and gas tankers carrying millions of dollars’ worth of fuel caught fire on Saturday, creating an inferno at Afghanistan’s biggest trade crossing with Iran, officials said.

The blaze broke out in the early afternoon at Islam Qala port, some 120 kilometres from the city of Herat, engulfing the tankers that were parked nearby after crossing the border. The inferno was powerful enough to be spotted from space by Nasa satellites.

Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency quoted truck drivers as saying more than 500 trucks carrying natural gas and fuel had burned. A western official monitoring the situation told Reuters at least 60 people had been injured.

Younus Qazizada, the head of the Herat Chamber of Commerce and Industries, told Reuters the blaze had caused millions of dollars in damage.

“Preliminary investigations show that more than $50 million of damage has been caused by the fire so far,” he said.

At least 17 people have been taken to hospital, some of them with serious burns, said Ibrahim Mohammadi, head of the Herat ambulance service.

Jailani Farhad, the spokesman for the governor of western Herat province, said dozens of tankers were ablaze.

“We don’t have the required facilities to contain it, so through the foreign ministry, we have asked the government of Iran to help us contain the fire,” he said.

The cause of the fire was unknown, he added.

Videos posted on social media show towering flames and huge clouds of thick black smoke billowing into the sky.

Around 60 per cent of Herat province was without power as a result of the fire, Afghan energy company DABS said.

Islam Qala is one of the major ports in Afghanistan, through which most official trade with Iran is conducted.

Iran foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that the border “was held open for trucks, cars and people running from the fire” towards Iran.

He added that authorities from both countries were helping to tackle the blaze.

Taking advantage of the situation, militants attacked a nearby security post after the blaze broke out, Farhad added.