Oil storage tank goes up in flames in fuel strapped Lebanon

A “huge fire” that broke out in a fuel storage tank at Lebanon’s Zahrani oil facility has been contained, the country’s energy minister said from the site.

The fire broke out on Monday and took more than three hours to contain and extinguish.

At least 25 fire trucks were present on site, as the firefighters tried to extinguish the fire in the tank and cool surrounding tanks to prevent the fire from spreading.

There were no injuries or casualties reported, according to the head of the facility Ziad el-Zein.

The tank that caught fire contained petrol that belonged to the Lebanese army.

Energy Minister Walid Fayyad told reporters the cause of the fire remained unknown and he did not know if it was intentional.

He added that the fire broke out while workers were transferring fuel and estimated that 250,000 litres of petrol burnt in the fire.

“We need to wait for the results of the investigation and have to be ready to take all the necessary measures based on the results,” Fayyad said. “The priority now is the people’s safety.”

El-Zein told reporters that the storage tanks were properly maintained despite resources stretching thin due to the country’s financial crisis.

“If we had not done preventative maintenance and regulations, we would have been in a different situation now,” he said, saying that they averted what could have been a “catastrophe”.

The Lebanese Army had earlier cleared residents from the area and diverted traffic.

The tanks at the Zahrani oil facilities store petrol and diesel that the government has purchased.

The incident is another setback for cash-strapped Lebanon as it continues to struggle with a crippling petrol 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.

Monday’s blaze also came 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.