Syria says extinguishes huge fire near Homs refinery, no casualties

3 minute read

AMMAN, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Syrian civil defence teams on Tuesday extinguished a huge fire that swept a number of oil tankers loading crude oil from an installation near the country's main Homs refinery after a blast that hit the depot area, state media said.

An explosion had earlier hit a government-owned crude oil transportation company in the city and oil tankers loading crude oil from the installation then caught fire, state media reported.

Oil Minister Bassam Touma said an unknown explosion that hit a tanker that was offloading crude oil to Homs refinery ended up engulfing seven oil tankers.

"The company and the refinery are fine," Touma told state media as state television relayed live footage of the fires.

The governor of Homs, Bassam Barsik, was earlier quoted on state media as saying civil defence teams were working on extinguishing the fire that erupted during "the loading of crude oil".

"There are no human casualties and we are working on containing the spread of the fire," Barsik said.

The government did not say whether the blast and the fires were a result of an attack as it normally has done in previous incidents where it has blamed foreign-backed "terrorists."

Officials privately however said they did not rule out such an attack in a war-torn country where violence has subsided but insurgents and rebels still wage attacks in government-held areas, targeting oil and gas installations.

There have been hit-and-run attacks on government forces in the central province of Homs in recent months by remnants of Islamic State militants who take shelter in outlying, sparsely populated areas.

The Russian air force has also been active in recent weeks in helping the Syrian army bomb suspected hideouts of militants in the Homs area.

Both Homs refinery alongside Banias on the Mediterranean coast are currently facing supply shortages due to erratic supplies of Iranian crude oil to the sanctions-hit country that relies mainly on Tehran for its energy needs.

Syria has over the past year faced months of gasoline and fuel shortages, forcing it to ration supplies distributed across government-held areas and to apply several rounds of steep price hikes.

Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Catherine Evans and Bernadette Baum

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

More from Reuters