Six injured as blaze spreads after ‘sabotage’ blast at Aden refinery

Fire engulfs an oil storage tank at the Aden oil refinery following an explosion in Aden, (Reuters)
Updated 13 January 2019

Six injured as blaze spreads after ‘sabotage’ blast at Aden refinery

  • Civil defense crews battle to stop fire taking hold in fuel storage tank complex

JEDDAH: Six people were injured on Saturday when a fire caused by an explosion in a storage tank at the main oil refinery in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden spread to a second tank.

The cause of the blast late on Friday is still unknown, but security officials described it as sabotage.

The fire, which also spread to a nearby pipeline, was “the result of an explosion, probably a deliberate act of sabotage,” one said.

“The fire brigade are working to contain the blaze and stop it spreading to the neighboring storage tanks, which are full of oil and diesel” donated by Saudi Arabia, he said.

Another official said security forces had prevented anyone from leaving the site and opened an investigation into the incident. Early indications suggested “an explosion and an act of sabotage” were to blame, he also said.

Aden is under the control of the internationally recognized government, which is backed by the Saudi-led coalition. 

It took up residence there after Iran-backed Houthi militias ousted it from the capital, Sanaa, in 2014. Aden’s refinery was damaged the following year in fighting that put it out of operation for more than a year, causing severe fuel shortages and power cuts.

Farther north on Saturday, there were clashes between Houthi and government forces in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, placing more pressure on a fragile UN-brokered truce.

Artillery and machinegun exchanges broke out in the southern part of Hodeidah in early morning before tapering off later in day.

The UN says the cease-fire has largely held since it came into force on Dec. 18 but there have been delays in the agreed pullback of Houthi and government forces.

New envoy stresses need for UN-backed solution to Syria war

Updated 1 min 42 sec ago

New envoy stresses need for UN-backed solution to Syria war

DAMASCUS: The new UN envoy to Syria ended his first visit to the war-torn country Thursday, stressing the need for a UN-brokered political solution to the eight-year conflict.
Geir Pedersen, a seasoned Norwegian diplomat, concluded his three-day visit and headed to the Lebanese capital Beirut, a UN source told AFP.
The new envoy on Twitter late Wednesday said he had a "constructive meeting" with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem during his stay in Damascus.
During it, he stressed the need for a "Syrian-led and -owned political solution facilitated by the UN", he added.
Pedersen, who started his new job last week, is the fourth UN envoy to seek a solution to Syria's conflict, after endless rounds of failed UN-brokered peace talks.
In recent years, UN-led efforts have been overshadowed by separate negotiations led by regime allies Russia and Iran, as well as rebel backer Turkey.
After Damascus, Pederson said he was off to meet the Syrian Negotiations Committee, Syria's main opposition group.
But he "agreed to come back to Damascus on a regular basis to discuss commonalities and progress on points of disagreement", he added.
On Tuesday, Muallem expressed Syria's "readiness to cooperate with him... in his mission to facilitate Syrian-Syrian dialogue with the objective of reaching a political solution to the Syrian crisis", a foreign ministry statement said.
Pederson takes over from Staffan de Mistura, a Swiss-Italian diplomat who stepped down at the end of last year over "personal reasons".
Officials in the government of President Bashar al-Assad had set the tone for the new envoy's tenure shortly after his appointment was announced in October.
"Syria will cooperate with the new UN envoy Geir Pedersen provided he avoids the methods of his predecessor," Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Meqdad said.
De Mistura ended his four-year tenure with an abortive push to form a committee tasked with drawing up a post-war constitution.
Syria's war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions since the war started with the repression of anti-government protests in 2011.
With key military backing from Russia, Assad's forces have retaken large parts of Syria from rebels and extremists, and now control almost two-thirds of the country.
A drive to bring the Syrian regime back into the Arab fold also seems underway, with the UAE reopening their embassy in Damascus last month.