Kabul: The Ministry of the Interior said on Sunday that on the northern edge of the Afghan capital Kabul, a scorching flame bombarded dozens of oil tankers, killing 7 people and wounding 14 people.
Tariq Arian, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said investigators were combing through the smoldering ruins of oil tankers and gas stations that lit the area on Saturday night.
There was no immediate indication of whether it was an accident or vandalism. On the same day, the United States and NATO officially began the final phase of withdrawal from Afghanistan, ending nearly 20 years of military engagement.
All 2,500-3,500 American soldiers and approximately 7,000 NATO allied forces will be withdrawn from Afghanistan on September 11 at the latest, the 20th anniversary of the US terrorist attack that first brought them into Afghanistan.
Arian said the fire began when a spark set a fuel tanker ablaze. Nearby tankers were quickly engulfed, sending giant flames and plumes of smoke into the night sky. The fire in the northern edge of the city engulfed several homes and a nearby gas station. Several structures were destroyed and electricity to much of Kabul, which usually has only sporadic power, was knocked out.
Truck drivers Sunday blocked the road leading to the area demanding the government provide compensation. The injured were being treated mostly for burns in local hospitals.
The fire came soon after residents of the majority Muslim nation — marking the holy month of Ramadan when the faithful fast from sunrise to sunset — had ended their day-long fast.
A driver, Haji Mir, said that trucks lined up to enter the city and the explosion was deafening. He estimates that as many as 100 trucks may have been burned.
“The first explosion sounded like a mine explosion,” he said. “There were flames shooting from one truck and then a second truck exploded, and a third.”
Dozens of tankers were moving slowly into the capital at the time of the blaze. They had been waiting until after 9 p.m. when fuel tankers and other large trucks are allowed to enter Kabul.
Obaidullah, a resident in the area who goes by one name, said the fireballs were enormous. His family and neighbors ran into their yards.
“Fire lit up the sky,” he said. Drivers were screaming for help as flames leapt from vehicle to vehicle. “Drivers were yelling that their co-drivers were stuck and were burning.”
Firefighters arrived at the scene but their capacity is limited and it took hours to bring the blaze under control. On Sunday morning, flames still flickered in the ruins.