Head of Egyptian gas co. says explosion caused by leak

Blast in El-Arish that caused shut off of natural gas flow to Israel and Jordan was originally called terror attack.

February 5, 2011 15:17
2 minute read.
Gas pipeline explosion in El-Arish, Egypt

Gas Pipeline Blast 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)


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The head of Egypt's natural gas company on Saturday said a fire at a gas terminal in the northern Sinai Peninsula was caused by a gas leak.

Saturday's fire, preceded by an explosion, did not cause casualties. However, officials had to shut off the flow of gas to neighboring Jordan and Israel to contain the blaze.

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The head of the Egyptian company for natural gas, Magdy Toufik, said in a statement that the fire broke out "as a result of a small amount of gas leaking."

Earlier, a regional governor in the Sinai, Abdel Wahab Mabrouk, told Egyptian media he suspected sabotage, but did not explain further.

Flames raged at the scene for three hours before they were successfully put out, Al-Jazeera reported.

Israeli officials said it was not clear whether the explosion affected the pipeline leading to Israel.

"At this stage, the gas supply to Israel was stopped according to procedure in emergency scenarios," said Chen Ben Lulu, spokesman of Israel's Infrastructure Ministry. "We are not sure what caused the explosion."

The pipelines transport gas from Egypt's Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea to Israel and Jordan. The gas pipeline to Jordan was damaged in the blast, according to Israel Radio.

The Prime Minister's Office stated that "Israel is prepared for stoppages in the gas supply from Egypt and has immediate access to alternative sources of energy."

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau on Saturday to discuss the explosion and the subsequent cutting off of the gas supply through the pipeline.

The Infrastructure Ministry does not foresee problems with the country's electricity supply as a result of the explosion.

Israel Radio reported that security on the country's energy facilities has been increased in the aftermath of the El-Arish incident.

The gas pipeline has come under attack in the past.

Beduin tribesmen of the Sinai Peninsula attempted to blow up the pipeline last July as tensions intensified between them and the Egyptian government, which they accuse of discrimination and of ignoring their plight.

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