7 wooden boats catch fire in shipyard at Iran port

No signs of sabotage as authorities probe the cause of the blaze in Bushehr, the province housing the Islamic Republic’s only nuclear plant

A screenshot from video of a fire on a ship at the Bushehr port in southern Iran, July 15, 2020. (Screen capture: Twitter)
A screenshot from video of a fire on a ship at the Bushehr port in southern Iran, July 15, 2020. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Seven traditional wooden dhow vessels caught fire Wednesday in a factory in the southern Iranian port city of Bushehr, Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency reported.

There were no reports of casualties and the fire was eventually contained, ISNA said.

Authorities were investigating the cause of the fire, but paint thinner and wood paint are highly flammable and failure to follow safeguards can result in fire.

Dhows are traditional sailing vessels usually built for fishing in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman.

There was no indication of sabotage.

Video footage on state television IRIB’s website showed a fire truck and several men dousing smoldering vessels.

Bushehr Province, of which the eponymous port city is the capital, is where Iran’s sole nuclear plant is located. The plant is about about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the city.

The incident was the latest in string of mysterious fires and blasts to rock the country. Several of the recent disasters have struck sensitive Iranian sites, leading to speculation that they could be part of a sabotage campaign engineered by Israel.

The blasts included an explosion on July 2 that damaged Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility and, a week before that, a large blast felt in Tehran, apparently caused by an explosion at the Parchin military complex, which defense analysts believe holds an underground tunnel system and missile production facilities.

A Middle Eastern intelligence official was quoted earlier this month by The New York Times as saying the fire that badly damaged a building used for producing centrifuges at Natanz was sparked by Israel and was caused by a powerful bomb.

But the unidentified official said Israel was not linked to several other recent mysterious fires in Iran over the past week.

Iran last week called for action against Israel following the damage to the Natanz facility,  and appeared to acknowledge the fire there was not an accident.

Israeli TV reports, without naming sources, have said the blast destroyed the laboratory in which Iran developed faster centrifuges and set back the Iranian nuclear program by one or two years.

AFP contributed to this report.

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