Herat, Afghanistan (Associated Press) – A fuel tanker exploded on Saturday at the Islam Qala crossing in Herat province in western Afghanistan on the Iranian border, injuring at least seven people and causing a massive fire that consumed more than 500 trucks loaded with natural gas and fuel, according to officials. Afghans and Iranian state media.
It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion. Vahid Qali, the governor of Herat state, said that the first Afghan responders did not have the means to put out the flames and requested support from Iran in the form of firefighting aircraft.
“At the moment, we can’t even talk about the victims,” Killer told The Associated Press.
Muhammad Rafiq Shirzi, a spokesman for the regional hospital in the capital of Herat province, also called Herat, said that the intensity of the fire made the ambulances face a problem in reaching the wounded or approaching the site of the explosion.
He said that seven people who were injured in the fire have been hospitalized so far.
The semi-official Iranian Students News Agency quoted truck drivers as saying that more than 500 trucks carrying natural gas and fuel had been burnt so far.
Two explosions at the border crossing were powerful enough to be detected from space by NASA satellites. There was an explosion at about 1:10 pm Afghan time (0840 GMT), and then the next explosion occurred about half an hour later at 1:42 pm local time (0912 GMT).
Waheedullah Tawhidi, a spokesman for the Electricity Ministry, said the fire continued after dark, forcing Afghanistan to cut off Iran’s electricity supply, leaving Herat in the dark.
The road between Herat city and Islam Qala is a dangerous stretch of the highway. Afghans rarely travel at night for fear of attacks by criminal gangs. Taliban fighters also travel freely in the area. The Afghan security services have set up checkpoints and are assisting ambulances and emergency vehicles traveling to and from the border crossing.
Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported that at the request of the Herat governor, “Iranian rescue forces and firefighters are underway to extinguish the fire inside Afghanistan,” according to Mohsen Nagat, director-general of crisis management in Iran’s Khorasan Razavi province.
The fire spread to Dogarone customs installations on the Iranian side, and first aiders – including the fire department, the Iranian army and border forces – were helping to extinguish the fire, according to Iranian TV. The trucks carrying natural gas and fuel were directed to leave.
The Islam Qala border crossing is located approximately 120 kilometers (75 miles) west of the city of Herat. It is a major transit route between Afghanistan and Iran.
The United States allows Afghanistan to import fuel and oil from Iran as part of a special concession that exempts Kabul from sanctions against Iran. Satellite images taken on Saturday showed dozens of tankers parked at the border crossing before the explosion.
Vahdat contributed from Tehran, Iran.