By Mennatallah Fouad Youssef
CAIRO: Twenty-three workers at the Nasr Oil Company were injured after new explosions were reported at the company’s site in Suez Tuesday dawn, officials said.
The injured were taken to the General Suez hospital with injuries to the spine and several cases experiencing difficulty in breathing and panic attacks, according to the health ministry.
At the crack of dawn residents of the areas near the oil refinery reported hearing explosions after the contests of the fifth oil refinery at the company’s site reportedly caught on fire.
Ambulances and fire trucks rushed to the scene.
“There is information that the fires that were caused by the explosion are now under control and we don’t have a confirmed survey of the extent of the damages caused,” the Ministry of Petroleum emergency unit told Daily News Egypt.
Several oil tanks in Suez were ablaze last Saturday. It took nearly 20 hours to put out the fire, but since then new fires have started intermittently.
Despite the ministry’s assurances that the situation is under control, several schools were evacuated as a precautionary step as the fires continue.
“There is no need for the people to evacuate their homes given that the oil company is far away from the houses. However, if there is need to, the police forces will coordinate with the governorate to carry out such a plan,” said the media department of the Ministry of Interior.
Egypt Gas, a ship that was unloading butane gas at one of the Suez docks was also evacuated after the explosions.
Since the beginning of the crisis fire fighting squads from Cairo and neighboring provinces have been trying to control the fire along with the deployed army troops and the air force.
According to the state run news agency MENA, one person died on Saturday.
Bashir Saad Bashir, 32, was driving a fire truck to help with putting out the fire when he was caught in the blaze. Firefighters backed by army helicopters failed to put out the flames, but they eventually died out, apparently because the oil was fully consumed.
Investigation is under way to determine the cause of the fire, which according to company officials burned up about 10,000 tons of crude oil, or 20 percent of the company’s capacity, until Sunday.
Most of the company’s output is for export. Egypt has been hit by recurrent fuel shortages, which government officials blame on hoarding subsidized fuel. But many blame the government’s mismanagement for the crisis.
A company official, Hani Dahi, told the official state news agency MENA that the fire won’t impact the local market because most of the destroyed oil was intended for export.
This is the second fire in an oil company in Suez since February. Bashir is the brother of one of four workers who died in the February fire, the police chief said. –Additional reporting by the Associated Press.