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Gibraltar extinguishes fuel tank blaze

02 june 2011, 13:21
Firefighters put out a huge blaze on the British territory of Gibraltar on Wednesday, a day after a fuel tank exploded near a cruise ship and injured at least 14 people, AFP reports citing officials.

They battled through the night and finally extinguished the flames shortly before dawn.

An oil tank explosion probably caused by a spark from welding operations shook the Rock on Tuesday afternoon, nearby the giant cruise ship Independence of the Seas.

The inferno, which sent dense black smoke billowing across the port, later spread further when the heat and flames caused a second nearby fuel tank to explode, the authorities said.

"There was an explosion and full collapse of the second tank," said a senior fire service spokesman.

Firefighters had focused on extinguising the fire and cooling the adjoining tanks. But when the second tank went up, it resulted in a "much larger fire", a government spokesman said.

Land-based firefighters had to withdraw and battle the blaze from the sea, he said.

Initial reports indicated two workers were welding on top of the tank, which contained a mixture of water and used oil, when it exploded, the government said.

One of the welders, a 40-year-old Spanish national, suffered life threatening injuries and was taken to a Gibraltar hospital and then a specialist burns unit in a hospital in Seville, Spain.

The other worker, a 25-year-old Spaniard, suffered minor injuries and was in the Gibraltar hospital.

Gibraltar's government said 12 passengers onboard the 'Independence of the Seas' suffered injuries, mostly minor burns, but one passenger suffered a fractured shoulder.

The cruise ship had arrived in Gibraltar Tuesday morning and had been scheduled to leave the same afternoon.

The tank exploded 25 minutes before the ship's scheduled departure, and the vessel had to abandon its berth near the tank in an emergency departure. "The ship did not suffer serious damage," said a government spokesman.

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