A bad week for Iran has gotten worse with the outbreak of a devastating fire at a major oil refinery south of Tehran. The fire began just hours after the largest ship in the Iranian navy caught on fire and sank in the Gulf of Oman. The refinery blaze reportedly took 20 hours to extinguish, while huge plumes of smoke became visible from nearby Tehran. The Iranian government is now claiming that the situation is under control.
Iran faces two massive fires
Iranians rushed to get gasoline before the start of the weekend as news of the fire spread, though Iranian officials attempted to convince the public that production would not be affected.
The two fires came in the middle of an intense heat wave across Iran, with temperatures reaching 104 degrees Fahrenheit on June 2, when the conflagrations began.
Extreme Summer heat has sparked fires in Iran before, leading to speculation that this could be the cause of these disasters, though the official cause has not yet been determined.
Officials suggested that the refinery was started by a leak from a waste tank which affected a liquid petroleum pipeline.
While the effects of the fire were extremely visible, the damage was reportedly far less severe than it could have been. Firefighters were able to extinguish the flames before they ignited other nearby tanks.
Almost 200 firefighters arrived to combat the fire. Officials reported that only eleven people were injured, with four hospitalized. No deaths were reported.
Largest vessel sinks
The Iranian ship Khark, the largest in the Iranian navy, was also the subject of a 20 hour firefighting effort that started just before the refinery blaze.
The Khark is a logistical and training ship which has been in service for more than 40 years. The ship was taking part in a training exercise in the Gulf of Oman when a fire broke out on board.
While the crew was safely evacuated without any casualties, the ship itself could not be saved and sank off of the Iranian coast.
An accident during an Iranian naval exercise in 2020 in the Gulf of Oman resulted in 19 deaths and 15 injuries. Iran has faced a number of naval disasters in recent years.
The accidents on the Gulf of Oman indicate the pressure faced by the Iranians in their struggle to maintain a naval presence that can contest their local waters with the US Navy, which they have frequently entered into tense situations with.
The dual disasters are difficult for Iran to afford, as the nation is already suffering from the effects of Covid-19 and the ever present American sanctions.