Huge explosion in oil tanker in central Syria, no casualties

An explosion Tuesday in an oil tanker outside a state fuel distribution company in central Syria caused a massive fire, state media reported.

It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion. Video aired by state news agency SANA showed huge plumes of smoke and high flames rising in the dark over a large swath of land. Firefighters were shown battling to contain the raging fire.

The minister of oil told Syrian state TV that seven tankers caught fire but there were no civilian casualties. The governor of Homs province said the explosion happened when crude oil was being unloaded from the tanker.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the tanker had arrived outside the company in Homs after traveling through the Syrian desert, where there are still cells of Islamic State militants hiding.

Last week, the Syrian government said it was forced to cut by up to 24% its distribution of fuel and diesel because of delays in the arrival of needed supplies amid a deepening crisis of resources.

The government of President Bashar Assad, heavily sanctioned by the West, relies on crude oil imported from Iran, a key Syrian ally which also sided with Syrian troops in the country’s civil war. Oil wells in eastern Syria have fallen outside government control and are now under the control of the Kurdish-led administration.

Because of the Western sanctions, smuggling from Kurdish-led areas into government controlled areas is rife.

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