A fiery explosion erupted on a container ship anchored in Dubai at one of the world’s largest ports late on Wednesday, authorities said, sending tremors across the commercial hub of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The blaze sent up giant orange flames on a vessel at the crucial Jebel Ali Port, the busiest within the Middle East that sits on the eastern side of the Arabian Peninsula.
The combustion unleashed a blast wave through the skyscraper-studded city of Dubai, causing walls and windows to shake in neighbourhoods as far as 25 kilometres far away from the port. Panicked residents filmed from their high-rises as a fiery ball illuminated the night sky. The blast was powerful enough to be seen from space by a satellite.
There were no immediate reports of casualties at the port, which is additionally the busiest port involving American warships outside the US.
Some two and a half hours after the blast, Dubai’s civil defence teams said that they had brought the hearth in check and began the “cooling process”.
Authorities posted footage on social media of firefighters dousing giant shipping containers. The glow of the blaze remained visible within the background as civil defence crews worked to contain the hearth.
A fire caused by an explosion within a container on board a ship at Jebel Ali Port has been brought under control; no casualities have been reported. pic.twitter.com/oMTaJhgEYd
— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) July 7, 2021
The extent of injury caused to the sprawling port and surrounding cargo wasn’t immediately clear. Footage shared on social media of the aftermath showed charred containers, ashes and littered debris.
The sheer force and visibility of the explosion suggested the presence of a highly combustible substance.
Dubai authorities told the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV that the crew had evacuated in time which the hearth seemed to have started in one among the containers holding “flammable material,” without elaborating.
Seeking to downplay the explosion, Mona al-Marri, director-general of Dubai Media Office, told Al-Arabiya the incident “could happen anywhere within the world” which authorities were investigating the cause.
The Jebel Ali Port at the northern end of Dubai is that the largest man-made deep-water harbour within the world and serves cargo from the Indian subcontinent, Africa and Asia. The port isn’t only a critical global cargo hub, but a lifeline for Dubai and surrounding emirates, serving because of the point of entry for essential imports.
Dubai authorities didn’t identify the stricken ship beyond saying it had been a little vessel with a capacity of 130 containers.
A fire broke out in a container ship anchored at Dubai's Jebel Ali Port, causing an explosion pic.twitter.com/YCyzLMrneY
— TRT World (@trtworld) July 7, 2021
Ship tracker MarineTraffic showed a fleet of small support vessels surrounding a docked container ship called the Ocean Trader flagged in Comoros. Footage from the scene rebroadcast by the UAE’s state-run WAM press agency showed firefighters hosing down a vessel bearing paint and logo that corresponds to the Ocean Trader, operated by the Dubai-based Inzu Ship Charter.
The Ocean Trader docked at Jebel Ali Port at midday on Wednesday. Ship tracking data showed the vessel had been sailing up and down the coast of the UAE since April. The United Nations ship database identified the vessel’s owners as Sash Shipping corporation. Sash and Inzu Ship Charter didn’t immediately answer requests for comment.
Operated by the Dubai-based DP World, a multinational logistics company, Jebel Ali Port boasts a handling capacity of over 22 million containers and sprawling terminals which will berth a number of the world’s largest ships. Port officials said they were “taking all necessary measures to make sure that the traditional movement of vessels continues with no disruption.”
State-owned DP World describes Jebel Ali Port as a “gateway hub” and a “vital link within the global trade network” that connects eastern and western markets. the corporate didn’t immediately answer requests to discuss the blast.