A cargo ship moored at one of the world’s biggest ports in Dubai caught fire late Wednesday, after an explosion rocked the United Arab Emirates’ economic centre, according to local officials.
The fire erupted into massive orange flames aboard a vessel at the critical Jebel Ali Port, the busiest in the Middle East, on the Arabian Peninsula’s eastern coast, but officials claimed the situation was under control.
“A fire caused by an explosion within a container on board a ship at Jebel Ali Port has been brought under control; no casualties have been reported,” the Dubai Media Office (DMO) said on Twitter.
The explosion sent a shockwave across the city, rattling buildings and windows as far as 25 kilometres (15 miles) away from the port.
At least three neighbours in the blast’s vicinity said their windows and doors were shattered as a consequence of the event, the cause of which is yet unclear.
There were no early reports of fatalities at the port, which is also the busiest port for American warships outside of the United States.
The Dubai administration released a statement early Thursday morning claiming that emergency personnel had got the flames under control. Firefighters dousing massive cargo containers were captured on video and shared on social media by authorities.
As civil defence personnel tried to put out the fire, the light of the flames could be seen in the backdrop.
It was unclear how much damage the vast port and adjacent goods had sustained. The cause of the fire was likewise unknown at the time.
Port officials said they were “taking all necessary measures to ensure that the normal movement of vessels continues without any disruption”.
Mona al-Marri, director-general of the DMO, told Al-Arabiya TV that this incident “could happen anywhere in the world” and that the government’s communication office worked to issue statements quickly to avert rumours from spreading as the cause of the fire is being investigated.
The office said the ship, which was not identified, was preparing to dock at one of the berths “away from the port’s main shipping line”.
According to Al Arabiya, the Dubai authorities stated that the ship’s crew had been evacuated in a timely manner.
Residents of Dubai filming with their phones from high-rises uploaded panicked footage on social media at around 11:45 p.m. local time (07:45 p.m. GMT) showing a flaming ball lighting the night sky.
Clemence Lefaix, who lives near the explosion site, took a picture of a brilliant orange light against the night sky in front of residential complexes.
“I was outside on my balcony. My friend saw something yellow coming [like] the sun. I took the picture and after [there was] a sound,” Lefaix told the AFP news agency.
The Jebel Ali Port, located on the outskirts of Dubai, is the world’s biggest built deep-water port, serving goods from the Indian subcontinent, Africa, and Asia.
The port, which is run by Dubai-based DP World, features four massive container terminals that can accommodate some of the world’s biggest ships. The port is not only a vital worldwide shipping centre, but also a lifeline for Dubai and its neighbouring emirates, since it serves as a point of entry for vital imports.
DP World describes Jebel Ali Port as a “gateway hub” and a “vital link in the global trade network” that connects eastern and western markets. The company did not immediately issue any public statement on the blast.