Explosion destroys 500 vehicles at Afghan customs depot

Explosion sends fuel trucks hundreds of yards into the air as explosion destroys 500 vehicles and causes damage worth tens of millions of pounds at Afghan customs depot

  • A huge blaze broke out Saturday afternoon at Islam Qala port, Afghanistan’s biggest trade crossing with Iran
  • Hundreds of fuel vehicles exploded in the fire while the blast hurled lorries hundreds of yards into the air
  • At least 60 people were injured in the incident that left traders with damage worth tens of millions of pounds
  • Devastating pictures capture the aftermath of the catastrophic blaze which has been contained on Monday

An estimated 500 oil and gas tankers have been destroyed in a catastrophic explosion and fire at Afghanistan’s biggest trade crossing with Iran, causing tens of millions of pounds of losses.

The huge blaze, which broke out Saturday afternoon at Islam Qala port 75 miles from the western city of Herat, has been contained and an investigation launched into its cause.

At least 60 people were injured after hundreds of fuel vehicles exploded in the blaze and a series of blasts hurled lorries hundreds of yards into the air, disrupting power supplies and causing tens of millions of pounds of damage. 

The fire was so intense that NASA satellites could reportedly see the blast from space and Afghan officials were forced to appeal to neighbouring Iran for help.  

An estimated 500 oil and gas tankers have been destroyed in a catastrophic explosion and fire at Afghanistan’s biggest trade crossing with Iran, causing tens of millions of pounds of losses. Pictured on February 14, a firefighter walks amidst wreckage of gas tankers after a huge fire accident at Islam Qala occurred on the outskirts of Herat, Afghanistan on Saturday

The huge blaze, which broke out Saturday afternoon at Islam Qala port 120 kilometres (75 miles) from the western city of Herat, has been contained and an investigation launched into its cause. The picture shows the aftermath of the blaze

At least 60 people were injured after hundreds of fuel vehicles exploded in the blaze and a series of blasts hurled lorries hundreds of yards into the air, disrupting power supplies and causing tens of millions of pounds of damage

Younus Qazi Zada, the head of the Herat Chamber of Commerce, said on Sunday that 500 tankers had been engulfed by flames.

‘Around $50 million of damage has been caused by the fire, but a more accurate figure will be available in the coming days,’ he added.

‘The catastrophe was much bigger than imagined,’ he said. 

Videos posted on social media on Saturday night showed the towering fire and huge clouds of thick black smoke billowing into the sky.

During the blaze looters descended on the site, stealing goods that were being imported and exported across the border.

Security forces on Sunday opened fire on a vehicle, killing one man, after the driver failed to stop at a checkpost that had been hastily set up to prevent suspected looters from entering what was left of the customs office compound. 

The finance ministry said early findings suggested the blaze started in a tanker before quickly spreading and causing ‘heavy financial losses’ – including fuel, tankers and customs facilities.

Damage to power lines from the incident left large parts of Herat province without power on Sunday.

At least 60 people were injured after hundreds of fuel vehicles exploded in the blaze and a series of blasts hurled lorries hundreds of yards into the air, disrupting power supplies and causing tens of millions of pounds of damage. Pictured, residents walk amidst wreckage of gas tankers on Sunday after a fire broke out in Islam Qala, Herat province, Afghanistan

Pictured, smoke rises from burnt tankers after a fire in Islam Qala, Herat province, on Saturday. The fire has been contained

During the blaze looters descended on the site, stealing goods that were being imported and exported across the border. Afghan men walks past the wreckage of gas tankers on Saturday after a fire accident at Islam Qala on the outskirts of Herat

Islam Qala is one of the major ports in Afghanistan, through which most official trade with Iran is conducted.

Kabul has waivers from Washington allowing it to import oil and gas from Iran despite US sanctions.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the border ‘was held open for trucks, cars and people running from the fire’.

Afghanistan’s vice president Amrullah Saleh said hundreds of trucks were allowed to enter Iran to escape.

Traders have been asked to use alternative border crossings.

A man walks past burnt tankers in Islam Qala, Herat province, Afghanistan on February 14. Younus Qazi Zada, the head of the Herat Chamber of Commerce, said on Sunday that 500 tankers had been engulfed by flames

An estimated 500 oil and gas tankers have been destroyed in a catastrophic explosion and fire at Afghanistan’s biggest trade crossing with Iran, causing tens of millions of pounds of losses. A security officer walks amidst wreckage of gas tankers

Pictured on Saturday, an Afghan firefighter works at the scene of a fire at Islam Qala Border near Iran, in Herat, Afghanistan

The Taliban has regularly attacked fuel tankers they suspect of supplying foreign troops in the country.

In 2014, the hardline group destroyed more than 200 fuel trucks on Kabul’s outskirts in an attack.

There was no indication that militants were behind Saturday’s blaze.

However, insurgents assaulted a nearby security post shortly after the blaze broke out, taking advantage of the situation, the spokesman for the governor of Herat province said Saturday.

People survey the scene of a fire at Islam Qala Border in Herat, Afghanistan, on February 13. The fire has been contained

An estimated 500 oil and gas tankers have been destroyed in a catastrophic explosion and fire at Afghanistan’s biggest trade crossing with Iran. An Afghan security officer walks past burnt tankers in Islam Qala, Herat province, on February 14

In this video screenshot, smoke rises from fuel tankers at the Islam Qala border with Iran, in Herat Province on February 13

Security forces have been deployed around the port area. 

Afghanistan has been hit by a surge in violence despite ongoing peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, which have so far failed to achieve a breakthrough.

The rise in violence has led US President Joe Biden’s administration to launch a review of a deal signed between Washington and the terror group last year that paved the way for the withdrawal of all American troops in the coming months.

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