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Fire breaks out in benzene tank at oil facility in south Lebanon: Report

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A fire broke out in a tank containing the hydrocarbon benzene in the Zahrani oil facility in southern Lebanon on Monday, according to the country’s National News Agency (NNA).

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The blaze was contained around two-and-a-half hours after it started, the Lebanese prime minister's office said on Twitter citing Energy Minister Walid Fayad.

Nearby facilities were cooled to stop the spread of the fire, according to a security source cited by Reuters.

Traffic is being diverted away from a nearby road as a precaution, the source added.

The incident took place the day after the Zahrani power plant, one of the country’s biggest, was forced to shut on Saturday due to fuel shortages.

Power was restored to normal on Sunday, according to Lebanon’s Energy Ministry.

Local news channel al-Jadeed shared footage of the blaze on its Twitter feed.

The Lebanese Army evacuated the area near the oil facilities where the fire broke out, al-Jadeed reported.

Lebanese authorities did not make any immediate comment on the incident.

Power supplies were back to normal on Sunday after Lebanon’s Zahrani and Deir Ammar power plants shut due to fuel shortages the previous day, the country’s Energy Ministry said.

Credit worth $100 million had been approved to import fuel for electricity generation, the ministry added.

Lebanon has been grappling with an economic crisis since August of 2019 that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Blackouts are common in the mediterranean nation and many Lebanese rely on private diesel generators to power their homes.

Nuclear material

Last year, a German company found dangerous nuclear material stored at the facility in Zahrani, according to the Associated Press.

Eight small containers that weigh less that 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) containing depleted uranium salts were removed shortly afterward.

The material has been stored at the facility since the 1950s, when it was run by the Mediterranean Refinery Company, or Medreco.

Medreco was an American company whose main shareholders were Mobil and Caltex and it was active in Lebanon for four decades until the late 1980s.

With agencies

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