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UAE: Dubai's Jebel Ali port resumes operations after explosion

Authorities say blaze broke out on a vessel stacked with containers carrying flammable materials
Civil defence firefighters at the scene of a blaze that broke out at Dubai's main port of Jebel Ali following an explosion, 8 July 2021 (AFP)

Normal operations resumed on Thursday at Dubai's Jebel Ali, one of the world's busiest ports, according to Bloomberg, after an explosion there at midnight on Wednesday unleashed a fireball that sent shockwaves through the Emirati city.

Dubai authorities said that the blaze broke out on a vessel stacked with containers carrying flammable materials while attempting to dock on one of the port's berths.

Firefighters extinguished the flames within two and half hours, and there were no casualties. All 14 of the vessel's crew members were evacuated before the blast.

Dubai police said that three of the 130 containers on the ship held flammable materials. Police vehicles, fire trucks and a helicopter were deployed to the port, while plumes of smoke rose from the heavily damaged vessel. Burned containers were visible on the quayside.

"Thank God everything is safe," Mona Al Marri, director of the Dubai Media Office said to Al-Arabiya TV. "This is a natural accident that happened in one of the containers, which was also carrying some flammable materials. There was no other reason."

Abdullah al-Marri, Dubai's police chief, said: "Initial reports indicate that... friction, or heat, may have led to the blast." He added that no radioactive substances or explosives were present in the containers.

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AFP reported that residents of apartment towers and villas along the city's coast heard a loud bang on Wednesday night and then felt windows and doors shaking after the fireball shot into the sky. Some filmed the spectacle from their balconies.

The explosion sent a shockwave through the city of Dubai, and was felt as far as 25km away from the port, AP reported.

"I was outside on my balcony. My friend saw something yellow coming like the sun. I took the picture and after there was a sound... I was really scared," Clemence Lefaix told AFP.

Another resident living close to the port said that that they saw "windows shaking... I have been living here for 15 years and this is the first time I've seen and heard this."

Jebel Ali port is located 30km from downtown Dubai. With 8,000 companies based there, it is the largest port in the Emirates, and contributed more than one fifth of Dubai's GDP last year.