Explosion at Algerian refinery kills at least 13
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
ALGIERS, Algeria -- An explosion ripped through an Algerian refinery Monday, killing at least 13 workers and injuring 74, officials said. The blast at state-run Sonatrach's refinery touched off a major fire that raged into the night in Skikda, a port on the gas-rich nation's eastern Mediterranean coast. The official APS news agency said a tank filled with liquefied natural gas ignited in a blast that was reportedly heard for miles away. Initial reports said six workers were killed, but that figure quickly rose to 13 as rescuers reached victims, APS said. There was no immediate word on the conditions of the 74 injured workers. The blaze had been contained to the port's liquefied natural gas complex by firefighters, said Algeria's energy minister, Chakib Khelil, who traveled to the city about 300 miles east of the capital, Algiers. The energy minister said the unit had been entirely destroyed.
"We will undoubtedly have to rebuild everything," Khelil told Algerian radio. The liquefied natural gas unit is one of seven complexes at the port. Khelil said the explosion had not damaged other units or a nearby power station.
Refinery officials said the blast was under investigation but early indications were that it was accidental.
More than 12,000 people work in the port's industrial zone. Algeria, which has been struggling for more than a decade to end an Islamic insurgency, is one of the world's largest exporters of natural gas.