At least 100 oil and gas tankers have been destroyed by an inferno at Afghanistan’s biggest trade crossing with Iran, causing millions of dollars of losses, officials said Sunday.
The huge blaze, which broke out at Islam Qala port 120 kilometres (75 miles) from the western city of Herat, was extinguished and an investigation has been launched to probe its cause, officials added.
Spokesman for the Governor of Herat province, Jailani Farhad said on Monday in a statement that the number could be higher but more time was needed to find out the extent of damage.
He said about 20 people who were injured as a result of the explosion have been hospitalised.
The finance ministry said initial reports were that the fire started in a tanker before quickly spreading, causing “heavy financial losses”, including of fuel, tankers and customs facilities. A delegation has been dispatched from the capital Kabul to investigate the blaze, the ministry added.
Islam Qala is one of the major ports in Afghanistan, through which most official trade with Iran is conducted.
Iran foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the border “was held open for trucks, cars and people running from the fire” towards Iran.
Afghan authorities called on Iran for help after saying it did not have the required resources to tackle the blaze alone.
Fire services from both countries were at the scene extinguishing small fires that still remain, Farhad said.
He added that Taliban insurgents attacked a nearby security post shortly after the blaze broke out but security forces have been deployed around the port to prevent any looting.
Afghanistan has been hit by a surge in violence despite peace talks that started in September between the Taliban and the Afghan government, which have so far failed to achieve a breakthrough.