Lebanon firefighters quell huge fuel tank fire

Firefighters in Lebanon put out a huge blaze that raged at a key fuel storage depot to the relief of many in the country gripped by desperate energy shortages.

There is no immediate report of casualties from the fire, which sent large plumes of dark smoke billow into the sky.

The fire broke out around 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) in a large petrol tank belonging to the army at the Zahrani facilities some 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Beirut, the National News Agency and local media say.

An AFP photographer says firefighters put out the flames at around noon (0900 GMT), and civil defense chief Raymond Khattar tells the press the blaze was “under control.”

Ziyad al-Zein, head of facilities at Zahrani, says the fire broke out as the tank was being emptied.

“We noticed an inclination in the reservoir’s roof yesterday and took immediate measures… this morning to transfer its contents,” he says, adding that “it would have been a disaster if the fire had spread to nearby tanks.”

Energy Minister Walid Fayad says the flames had consumed around 250,000 liters of gasoline and that an investigation had been launched into the cause of the fire.

The army cordoned off the area, cutting off roads leading to the depot as well as the main highway linking Beirut to the country’s south, the photographer says.

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