July 31, 2021

In Iran, a refinery and a burning warship

In less than twenty-four hours, two major incidents struck Iran and dealt a severe blow to the country’s infrastructure and military potential. On the evening of Wednesday, June 2, a fire broke out in an oil refinery located in the south of Tehran, the capital. A few hours earlier, on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday, the largest naval warship had also caught fire before sinking in the Gulf of Oman in unexplained circumstances. Both incidents come amid tensions between Iran and its regional rivals, notably Israel, and in the midst of the presidential campaign.

In the refinery, the fire broke out “In liquefied gas tanks”, according to the governor of Shahr-e-Rey (a department of the province of Tehran), Hossein Tavakoli. The head of the Iranian capital crisis unit, Mansour Darajati, rejected the hypothesis that a « explosion » either at the origin of the incident. Refinery officials have also ruled out a « sabotage ». Thursday morning, the fire had still not been brought under control.

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For several hours, huge columns of smoke rose in the sky, causing concern among residents of Tehran who were broadcasting images of the fire on the Internet. The town hall of the district even had to ask the inhabitants of the surroundings to leave their accommodation. The refinery, inaugurated in 1968, produces 250,000 barrels of fuel per day and provides about 17% to 20% of the country’s energy needs. According to the Iranian authorities, the installation should quickly return to normal operation, and there are no concerns about supplies.

Suspicion of Israel

The incident in Tehran began after the sinking of Iran’s largest military vessel, the Kharg, after rescuers tried unsuccessfully, for long hours, to contain a fire on board, of unknown origin. The Kharg, over 200 meters long, and used to supply other ships at sea or for training exercises, sank near the port of Jask, 1,270 kilometers southeast of Tehran, in the Gulf of Oman , near the very strategic Strait of Hormuz.

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According to Iranian media, the four hundred sailors and cadets who were on board managed to evacuate. Among them, thirty-three were injured. For the moment, Iran has given no explanation on the causes of the fire of this ship, which is also capable of carrying helicopters and heavy cargoes, such as military equipment, which makes its sinking suspect. An investigation has been opened.

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