An explosion on a container ship docked at the crucial Jebel Ali Port in Dubai on Thursday sent a shock wave across the skyscraper-studded city.
Impact of the blast: Damage, casualties, and injuries
The combustion, which sent up giant orange flames on a vessel at one of the world’s largest ports, caused the walls and windows to shake in neighbourhoods as far as 25 km away from the blast site.
However, there were no reports of casualties or injuries at the port as the 14 sailors aboard the ship were evacuated safely. The extent of damage caused by the blast was not immediately clear. Footage posted on social media of the aftermath showed charred containers, ashes, and scattered debris.
About two-and-a-half hours after the blast, Dubai’s civil defence teams said they had brought the blaze under control in 40 minutes and started the cooling process.
Cause of the explosion
The force and visibility of the blast suggested the presence of a highly combustible substance. A Dubai police personnel told the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV that the fire appeared to have started in one of the containers holding “flammable material”. Mona al-Marri, director general of Dubai Media Office, told the channel that this incident “could happen anywhere in the world” and that authorities were investigating the cause.
About the ship
Dubai authorities did not identify the affected ship but said it was a small vessel with a capacity of 130 containers. However, footage from the scene rebroadcast by the UAE’s state-run WAM news agency showed firefighters hosing down a vessel bearing paint and logo that corresponds to the Ocean Trader, operated by the Dubai-based Inzu Ship Charter. The Ocean Trader docked at Jebel Ali Port at midday Wednesday. Ship tracking data showed the vessel had been sailing up and down the coast of the UAE since April. The United Nations ship database identified the vessel’s owners as Sash Shipping corporation. Sash and Inzu Ship Charter did not immediately respond to request for comment.
About the port
According to DP World, Jebel Ali Port, constructed in the late 1970s to supplement the facilities at Port Rashid, is a “gateway hub” and a “vital link in the global trade network” that is crucial in connecting the eastern and western markets.
The episode brings back haunting memories of last year’s Beirut explosion
Last year, a catastrophic explosion in Beirut port claimed at least 135 lives and injured around 5,000 people. The August 4, 2020, blast was caught on camera and widely circulated on social media. The footage showed smoke billowing near the port area of the capital city of Lebanon, shortly before a powerful blast sent up a bigger cloud of smoke and tremors across the city.
The government had declared a two-week state of emergency, effectively giving the military full powers during this time. The explosion, which flattened much of the port, was said to have been caused by seized explosives stored in a warehouse at the port. But initial investigations indicated years of inaction and negligence over the storage of highly explosive material in Beirut port, an official source familiar with the findings told Reuters.
–– With inputs from agencies