Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fuel-Smuggling Tanker Explodes in North Sinai

As far as I can tell, there is only one English-language version of this news story. Our Israeli correspondent Abu Elvis sent us a link to a PalPress News Agency article in Arabic, and an excerpt based on a machine translation:

2008-12-20 19:17:54

El Arish-Palestine Press — Israeli sources said today that an explosion rocked the city of Arish in North Sinai after a tanker truck was loaded with 50 thousand liters of fuel in preparation for smuggling into the Gaza Strip.

The incident led to the destruction of 4 homes and a huge fire, where fire brigades were called from neighboring Egyptian areas in an effort to control it.

AFP confirms the Palestinian story and supplies additional details:

Egypt truck explodes in Gaza smuggling bid

EL-ARISH (AFP) — A fuel tanker truck exploded in an Egyptian border town where it was unloading its 50,000 litre cargo for smuggling into the Gaza Strip, destroying four homes, a security official said.

“The fuel was being unloaded near a house to be smuggled into Gaza,” the official said.

“Firefighters have been called in from the neighbouring cities to control the blaze, which is widespread,” he said, adding that there were no casualties.
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Last month, Egyptian police said they seized a truck loaded with 170,000 litres (about 40,000 gallons) of fuel in El-Arish which traffickers had planned to smuggle into Gaza.

Gaza is an impoverished coastal strip which has been under an Israeli blockade since the Palestinian Islamist Hamas group seized power there last year. It depends on whatever foreign aid is allowed in by Israel and by goods smuggled through tunnels from Egypt.

Egyptians in Sinai have demonstrated against fuel shortages in the region, which they blame on the smuggling.

Egypt’s Rafah border crossing with Gaza is the only passage into the territory not controlled by Israel. Egypt has refused to permanently open the border.

The blockade of the territory has led to severe fuel shortages, power cuts and an ever worsening humanitarian situation.

50,000 litres is about 13,200 gallons, which is no small amount of flammable liquid.

The article doesn’t specify what fuel is involved. It could be gasoline, but it might also be fuel oil or kerosene. Nor does it say how the smuggling takes place — presumably the fuel is carried in jerrycans through the tunnels that connect houses in Sinai with houses in the Gaza Strip.


Gort said...

Tankers don't explode easily. With a highly volatile substance like gasoline the danger is greater, but with a fuel like diesel there is very little danger. Generally tankers will burn but not explode. The proper fuel/air proportion must exist for an "explosion" to occur. If that ratio exists in the headspace of the container there could be an explosion of sorts that ruptures the walls and frees the remaining liquid to spill out and burn.

I wonder what exactly did happen. We'll never know because the information must pass through so many filters and even the eyewitnesses probably don't have the proper understanding.

Shades of Rashomon.

If it was LPG things would have been more interesting.

MauserMedic said...

Hm. I'm about 20 minutes from El Arish, and that's the first I've hear of it. My guess is unless one lives in town, it would be difficult to tell the destroyed homes from the occupied ones once the soot wears away. Trust me, I've driven through it a few times.

Anonymous said...

The idiots probably didn't think to load the oil and the explosives onto separate trucks.