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Investigators Probe Blast on Oil Tanker Near Yemen - 2002-10-07


The blaze from a French oil tanker that exploded Sunday off the coast of Yemen has been put out and all but one of the crew is accounted for.

Yemeni officials are investigating the incident and French officials are on their way to Yemen to begin their own inquiry. At issue is whether the blast was an accident or a deliberate act

Yemeni authorities say the explosion, which occurred Sunday off the southeastern coast of Yemen. They are blaming the blast on an oil leak in the super tanker, the Limburg.

Though French officials initially attributed the blast to a terrorist act, they later said it was too soon to determine what happened. But officials of Euronav, the France-based company that owns the tanker, said they thought it was terrorism.

The tanker is being towed to the Yemeni port of Mina al-Dabah.

The explosion occurred as the Limburg, carrying nearly 400,000 barrels of crude oil from Iran, was approaching Mina El Dabah in the Gulf of Aden, where it was going to take on more oil. But it caught fire, which sparked an explosion leaving a gaping hole in the vessel.

All but one of the 25 French and Bulgarian crew members on board the vessel were rescued, although many were hospitalized with injuries. A Bulgarian member of the crew has been officially declared missing.

Sunday's incident raised tensions in an area where tensions are already high. It occurred just one-week before the second anniversary of an attack on a U.S. warship in the harbor at Aden. Seventeen American sailors died in the attack, which American officials have blamed on al-Qaida.

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