Firefighters battle Afghan-Iran border blaze for a second day
On Sunday, the fire-fighters struggled for another day to battle a huge out of control fire that broke out when a fuel tanker exploded at the Islam Qala border crossing. The Islam Qala crossing is a major crossing in Afghanistan’s western Herat province on the Iranian border. It is a transit route between Afghanistan and Iran.
According to Afghan officials and Iranian state media, atleast 20 people were injured. Many of the trucks (more than 500) lined up at the crossing carrying natural gas and fuels were still ablaze.
Herat provincial Gov. Wahid Qatali said, “When each cylinder was exploding it was flying 100s of meters high.” (AP)
Satellite photos taken before the explosion showed dozens of tankers parked at the border crossing. The two explosions at the crossing were spotted from the space by NASA satellites as well. At around 1:10pm afghan time (0840 GMT), the first blast erupted. The next one erupted around a half-hour later at 1:42 p.m. local (0912 GMT).
Qatali said, “Officials were concerned that windy conditions could fan the flames and spread the fire to even more fuel-laden trucks in the area. The government was able to save more than 1,200 trucks.”
According to Chief of Herat’s chamber of commerce and industries, Younus Qazizada, the explosion and fire started when provincial customs employees were inspecting a gas tanker.
On Sunday, an investigation into the cause of the fire continued.
The chief said, “If the government would have invested the income of a single day of customs (tariffs) in the firefighting department this chaos wouldn’t have happened.”
Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency reported that due to the fire, goods and consignments of around USD 50 million have been lost. Qazizada estimated the losses were twice that much.
Provincial Governor Qatali said that the investigative team will inspect video footage of the area. But Herat provincial council member, Wakel Ahmad Karokhi said that the customs facility was entirely consumed by the fire.
According to the Iranian state television, the fire spread to the Dogharoon customs facilities on the Iranian side of the border. The first responders like the fire department, the Iranian army and border forces assisted in extinguishing the blaze.
Iran had sent 15 firefighting units to the Afghanistan side to help. Officials will soon accelerate the custom process at the crossing.