Huge blaze spreads at fuel storage depot in Tripoli

  • 28 July 2014
  • From the section Africa
Media captionFootage shows rescuers attempting to quell the huge flames at the fuel depot - Rana Jawad reports

A huge blaze engulfing Libya's biggest fuel storage facility in the capital, Tripoli, has spread to a second tank.

Libya's National Oil Company (NOC) has described the fire as "out of control".

It comes hours after the authorities appealed for international assistance to try to contain the blaze.

The government blames clashes between rival militias for starting the fire, which it says may cause a humanitarian and environmental disaster.

At least 97 people have been killed in fighting between rival militia groups battling for control of Tripoli's main airport in the past week.


Firefighters almost managed to put out the blaze when it took hold of a first tank but had to withdraw after fighting resumed in the area, Libyan oil company spokesman Mohamed Al-Harrai told the BBC.

He said shrapnel hit the second fuel tank, igniting it, and the fuel compound was still being hit.

Image caption Libyan officials have called on local residents to leave the area within a perimeter of 5km

Residents within 3-5km (2-3 miles) of the area have been urged to evacuate, amid fears of a massive explosion.

But evacuations could be difficult, warns the BBC's Rana Jawad in Tripoli, due to the precarious security situation.

The fuel storage site, which belongs to the Brega oil and gas company, is the main hub for distribution of petrol in the city.

It is located on the main airport road, where much of the fighting of the past two weeks between rival militias has been taking place.

Officials have called on the militias to cease fire in order to allow firefighters to do their job.

Image caption Fighting between rival militias in Tripoli and Benghazi has intensified in recent weeks
Image caption Several people have been injured in shelling near Tripoli airport
Image caption Dozens of planes have been destroyed in fighting around Libya's main airport

The government has been unable to disarm the numerous armed groups controlling large parts of the country, which are behind Libya's worst violence since the 2011 uprising that toppled Col Muammar Gaddafi.

It has led some Western governments to urge their nationals to leave and withdraw foreign staff from their embassies in Tripoli.

Libyan government officials have warned of the possibility of a break-up of the country if clashes over Tripoli airport continue.

Members of the Islamist Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room (LROR) are trying to seize control of the airport, which has been in the hands of the Zintan militia since the overthrow of Col Gaddafi.

In Benghazi, at least 38 people were killed in clashes between between troops loyal to the Libyan government and Islamist fighters on Sunday.