A fiery explosion late on Wednesday erupted on a container ship anchored in Dubai at one of the world’s largest ports, authorities said, sending tremors across the commercial hub of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
There were no immediate reports of casualties, and it was unclear what triggered the blast.
The blaze sent up giant orange flames from a vessel at Jebel Ali Port, the busiest in the Middle East. It sits on the eastern side of the Arabian Peninsula and is also the busiest port of call for US warships outside the US.
Photo: AFP / HO / Government of Dubai Media Office
The combustion unleashed a shock wave through Dubai, causing walls and windows to shake in neighborhoods as far as 25km away from the port. Residents filmed from their high-rises as a fiery ball illuminated the night sky. The blast was powerful enough to be seen from space by satellite.
About two-and-a-half hours after the blast, Dubai’s civil defense teams said they had brought the fire under control and started a “cooling process.”
Authorities posted footage on social media of firefighters dousing giant shipping containers. The glow of the blaze remained visible in the background as civil defense crews worked to contain the fire.
The extent of damage to the sprawling port and surrounding cargo was not immediately clear. Footage shared on social media of the aftermath showed charred containers, ashes and littered debris.
The sheer force and visibility of the explosion suggested the presence of a combustible substance. Dubai authorities told Saudi Arabian-owned al-Arabiya TV that the crew had evacuated in time and that the fire appeared to have started in one of the containers holding flammable material, without elaborating.
Dubai Media Office director-general Mona al-Marri told al-Arabiya that the incident “could happen anywhere in the world” and that authorities were investigating the cause.
Jebel Ali Port at the northern end of Dubai is the largest artificial deep-water harbor and serves cargo from the Indian subcontinent, Africa and Asia.
The port is not only a critical global cargo hub, but a lifeline for Dubai and surrounding emirates, serving as the point of entry for essential imports.
Dubai authorities did not identify the stricken ship beyond saying it was a small vessel with a capacity of 130 containers.
Ship tracker MarineTraffic showed a fleet of small support vessels surrounding a docked container ship called the Ocean Trader flagged in Comoros. Footage from the scene rebroadcast by the UAE’s state-run WAM news agency showed firefighters hosing down a vessel bearing paint and logo that corresponds to the Ocean Trader, operated by Dubai-based Inzu Ship Charter.
The Ocean Trader docked at Jebel Ali Port at midday on Wednesday. Ship tracking data showed the vessel had been sailing up and down the coast since April.
The UN ship database identified the vessel’s owners as Sash Shipping. Sash and Inzu Ship Charter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Operated by the Dubai-based DP World, Jebel Ali Port boasts a handling capacity of more than 22 million containers and sprawling terminals that can berth some of the world’s largest ships.
Port officials said they were “taking all necessary measures to ensure that the normal movement of vessels continues without any disruption.”
State-owned DP World describes Jebel Ali Port as a “gateway hub” and a “vital link in the global trade network” that connects eastern and western markets. The company did not immediately respond to request for comment on the blast.
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