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June 24, 2021
Thursday, June 24, 2021

First, A Naval Ship, Then An Oil Refinery: Two Massive Fires In Iran Within Hours of Each Other

Iran’s largest navy ship the Kharg sank on Wednesday after catching fire in the Gulf of Oman, but the crew were safely rescued, Iranian media reported.

No further explanation was given for the latest incident in a region of sensitive waterways, where there have been accusations of attacks on ships owned by arch-enemies Iran and Israel.

State TV said the fire on Iran’s highest-tonnage naval vessel started around 2:25 a.m. on Wednesday (21:55 GMT) near the Iranian port of Jask, where it was on a training mission.

The Gulf of Oman connects to the Strait of Hormuz where about a fifth of the world’s oil passes.

Rescue operations for the Kharg went on for hours, the statement on state TV said, with all the crew disembarking.

“All efforts to save the vessel were unsuccessful and it sank,” the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

In April, Iran said one of its vessels, the Saviz, had been targeted in the Red Sea, after media reports the ship had been attacked with limpet mines.

That came after Israel and Iran had blamed each other for a series of reported attacks on cargo ships since late February.

Iran has refused to recognize Israel since its Islamic Revolution in 1979 that toppled the U.S.-backed Shah. Israel sees Iran’s nuclear program as a threat to its existence.

The shipping incidents have occurred since U.S. President Joe Biden took office in January, pledging to rejoin Iran’s 2015 nuclear containment deal with six world powers — abandoned by his predecessor Donald Trump in a move welcomed by Israel — if Tehran returns to full compliance with the accord.

A few hours later, a huge fire broke out at an oil refinery in the southern part of the Iranian capital Tehran, Iranian state media reported, saying there were so far no reports of casualties.

Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency said all operations had been suspended at the facility, known as the Tondguyan refinery, as firefighters tried to contain the blaze.

“A leak at a liquid gas pipeline at the facility sparked the fire,” Mansour Darajati, the head of Tehran’s crisis management organization, told state TV. The cause of fire will be investigated, he added.

Shaker Khafaii, head of the Tehran Oil Refining Co, which runs the refinery, ruled out the possibility of sabotage, Iran’s state TV reported.

Iranian media said ambulances and firefighters had been dispatched to the area, while TV said thick plumes of black smoke over the refinery could be seen from different parts of Tehran. The fire at the refinery happened a few hours after Iran’s largest navy ship the Kharg caught fire and later sank in the Gulf of Oman.


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