Inferno at fuel depot in raging battle to take Libyan airport
A FUEL depot in Libya's capital burned out of control yesterday after its tanks were hit during an intensifying battle between rival militias for control of Tripoli airport.
An overnight fire at one of the vast tanks, which was struck by a high explosive rocket, spread to a second later in the day. At least four other tanks and a pressurised gas store on the same site are also exposed to the fires. Libya's interim government advised residents within a three-mile radius of the 1.6m gallon petrol storage facility to leave their homes. Firemen were withdrawn from the area after declaring that they were incapable of tackling the blaze without specialist equipment.
"Firemen have been trying for hours to put out the blaze but to no avail. Their water reserves finally ran out and they've had to leave," said Mohamed al-Hrari, a spokesman for the national oil company. "The situation is out of control."
He said the only option left was "intervention by air". The government said it hoped several countries would send firefighting aircraft in response.
"The situation is very dangerous after a second fire broke out at another petroleum depot," the government said, warning of a "disaster with unforeseeable consequences".
It added: "An explosion is coming, no doubt. The firefighters have given up. "
The latest chaos that has hit efforts to rebuild the Libyan state following the overthrow of Col Muammar Gaddafi three years ago, began two weeks ago, when Islamist rebels launched a raid on the airport.
The battle for control of the airport involves militias, mostly from the western city of Misurata, fighting rival groups from the western mountain town of Zintan. The airport is controlled by factions allied with Zintan. (© Daily Telegraph, London)