Kabul / Herat:
A massive fire engulfed a customs post in Afghanistan on Saturday after tankers caught fire, injured at least 60 people and ordered authorities across the nearby Iranian border to send fire engines and ambulances.
Numerous residents fought to control the fire in the border town of Islam Qala, which according to initial reports had started after the explosion of a gas tanker. Officials later said the cause was not immediately clear.
Waheed Qatali, governor of western Herat province, said the Iranian authorities and NATO-led personnel in Afghanistan had been asked for urgent assistance to contain the fire that damaged electricity infrastructure and left much of Herat’s capital without electricity.
Thick black clouds of smoke and flames rose high in the air around the scene, as TV images showed.
Rescue workers and Afghan security forces relocated hundreds of fuel and gas tankers from the region while the international Resolute Support Mission was contacted with a request for aerial fire fighting assistance, Qatali said.
A Western official who was monitoring the situation told Reuters that at least 60 people had been injured so far. Afghan officials reported a lower number of casualties but said that number could increase.
Across the Iranian border, the regional emergency officer Mohsen Nejat told state television that Iran had sent 21 ambulances and 20 fire engines to the scene.
More than 300 gasoline, diesel and gasoline vehicles exploded, Hossein Akhundzadeh, a regional Iranian trade official, told the semi-official Iranian news agency ISNA.
“It is not known whether the drivers escaped or not. The fire has not yet been contained and detailed information is not available,” he said.
Wahid Tawhidi, a spokesman for power distribution company Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat, said 100 megawatts (MW) of electricity imported into Herat province from Iran had been shut down because two pylons burned down.
He said 60% of Herat, one of the largest provinces in Afghanistan, is without electricity.
Younus Qazizada, head of Herat’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Reuters that the fire caused millions in damage.
“Preliminary investigations have shown that the fire has caused more than $ 50 million in damage so far,” he said.
17 injured people have been hospitalized and the number of victims could rise, said Mohammed Raffia Shiraz, a spokesman for Herat’s health department.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)