Huge Fire At Iraq Oil Refinery Injures 14

A large fire burned at an oil refinery in Iraqi Kurdistan for over 20 hours, injuring at least 14 firemen before being brought under control on Thursday.

The fire started in a huge crude oil tank on Wednesday night and moved to a second refinery on a road southwest of Arbil, the capital of the autonomous northern province of Kurdistan, according to the civil defense service.

An AFP photographer observed that thick plumes of black smoke and orange flames soared into the sky above the complex.

According to the civil defense organization, the fire “started in one refinery before spreading to another” and the reason is unknown.

Shakhwan Saeed, an agency official, told a news conference on Thursday evening that “the fire has been 100 percent contained, and there is no longer any danger for the surrounding refineries.”

He stated that 150 rescuers had been mobilized and that 14 people had been hurt, two of whom were in “critical condition”.

Arbil Governor Omed Khoshnaw earlier stated that three rescuers were being treated in hospitals for burns, while another ten were having difficulty breathing.

The main storage tank that was affected contained more than 5,000 tons of petroleum, he claimed, with the damage estimated at $8 million.

According to the Arbil Civil Defence, four gasoline tanks and three fire trucks were torched.

“So far, we don’t know what caused it,” said Khoshnaw, adding that it could have been an electrical short circuit.

Saeed noted that the facility did not meet “any of the standards” set by the civil defence agency for safety.

With Iraq experiencing scorching summers, the country has seen multiple fires in recent weeks, affecting shopping centres, warehouses and hospitals.

Iraq is one of the world’s biggest oil producers and crude oil sales make up 90 percent of budget revenues.

But exports from the Kurdistan region have been halted for more than a year in a dispute over legal and technical issues.

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