A fiery explosion erupted on a container ship anchored in Dubai at one of the world’s largest ports late on Wednesday night, authorities said, sending tremors across the commercial hub of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The blaze sent up giant orange flames on a vessel at the crucial Jebel Ali Port, the busiest in the Middle East that sits on the eastern side of the Arabian Peninsula.
The combustion unleashed a shock wave through the skyscraper-studded city of Dubai, causing walls and windows to shake in neighbourhoods as far as 25 kilometres away from the port.
Panicked residents filmed from their high-rises as a fiery ball illuminated the night sky. The blast was powerful enough to be seen from space by satellite.
There were no immediate reports of casualties at the port, which is also the busiest port of call for American warships outside the US.
Some two and a half hours after the blast, Dubai’s civil defence teams said they had brought the fire under control and started the “cooling process”.
Authorities posted footage on social media of firefighters dousing giant shipping containers. The glow of the blaze remained visible in the background as civil defence crews worked to contain the fire.
The extent of damage caused to the sprawling port and surrounding cargo was not immediately clear.
Footage shared on social media of the aftermath showed charred containers, ashes and littered debris.
The sheer force and visibility of the explosion suggested the presence of a highly combustible substance.
Dubai authorities told the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV that the crew had evacuated in time and that the fire appeared to have started in one of the containers holding “flammable material,” without elaborating.
Seeking to downplay the explosion, Mona al-Marri, director general of Dubai Media Office, told Al-Arabiya the incident “could happen anywhere in the world” and that authorities were investigating the cause.
The Jebel Ali Port at the northern end of Dubai is the largest man-made deep-water harbor in the world and serves cargo from the Indian subcontinent, Africa and Asia.
The port is not only a critical global cargo hub, but a lifeline for Dubai and surrounding emirates, serving as the point of entry for essential imports.
Dubai authorities did not identify the stricken ship beyond saying it was a small vessel with a capacity of 130 containers.—AP