Fire rages at bombed Yemeni oil refinery

2015-07-14 13:31
Fire blazes from the Aden oil refinery following a reported shelling attack by Shi'ite Huthi rebels in the embattled southern Yemeni city of Aden. (Saleh Al-Obeidi, AFP)

Fire blazes from the Aden oil refinery following a reported shelling attack by Shi'ite Huthi rebels in the embattled southern Yemeni city of Aden. (Saleh Al-Obeidi, AFP)

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Aden - A blaze that erupted at an oil refinery in the Yemeni port of Aden after being hit by rockets was raging on Tuesday, as clashes intensified between rebels and pro-government fighters, officials said.

The refinery was targeted on Monday by rebels, said Nasser Shayef, the spokesperson for the facility, warning it could lead to a "humanitarian and environmental catastrophe".

The fire broke out when rockets struck pipelines within the refinery.

It spread overnight, threatening to reach nearby reservoirs, said Shayef, adding that civil defence units supported by residents of Buraiqa district were struggling to contain the blaze.

The neighbourhood which is held by southern fighters allied with exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi has been subject to attacks by Shi’ite Huthi rebels allied with troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

But the rebels have accused warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition, which supports pro-Hadi forces, of bombing the refinery, according to a statement carried by rebel-controlled media.

The refinery has not been receiving any oil via the port, but it still has 1.2 million tons of crude in storage and also gas tanks.

Warplanes struck rebel positions in Aden overnight, a military official said.

Fighting and air raids have persisted despite a UN-declared six-day ceasefire that formally began before midnight Friday.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on Monday he was "very much disappointed" by Yemen's failed ceasefire but retained hope the fighting might still end, his spokesman said.

The United Nations has declared Yemen a level-3 humanitarian emergency, the highest on its scale, with nearly half the country facing a food crisis.

More than 21.1 million people, over 80% of Yemen's population need aid, with 13 million facing food shortages, while access to water has become difficult for 9.4 million people.

The UN says the conflict has killed more than 3 200 people, about half of them civilians, since late March.

Read more on:    yemen  |  security

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