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Oil Facility Fires, Set Off by Rocket Attacks, Rage in Libya

  • VOA News

FILE - Fire rises from an oil tank in the port of Es Sider, in Ras Lanouf, Libya, Jan. 6, 2016. A Petroleum Facilities Guards blamed the blazes on attacks by Islamic State militants.

FILE - Fire rises from an oil tank in the port of Es Sider, in Ras Lanouf, Libya, Jan. 6, 2016. A Petroleum Facilities Guards blamed the blazes on attacks by Islamic State militants.

Fires were raging out of control Thursday at one of the main oil facilities in northern Libya after militants hit storage tanks with rockets.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but Libyan authorities blamed Islamic State, which is looking to take advantage of the power vacuum in the country, for this and earlier attacks on the tanks.

An official with the National Oil Corporation called the fires at the Ras Lanouf facility an "environmental catastrophe," saying the blazes were sending massive amounts of choking black smoke into the air. He said the rocket fire also knocked down power lines that supplied electricity to homes and businesses.

As many as 3 million barrels of oil were expected to be lost on top of the 4 million destroyed in fighting earlier this month.

Islamic State is striving to take over Libya's crippled oil facilities, which would give the terror group a huge boost in power and influence in the country. A newly formed unity government in Libya has yet to begin to assert its authority.

The internationally recognized government based in Tobruk and an Islamic administration in Tripoli signed a U.N.-brokered deal to form a government this week. But the rival parliaments have not yet approved the deal.

Libya has been in political flux since longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi was toppled and killed in 2011.

The chaos has affected the oil industry, on which the Libyan economy depends.

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