TRIPOLI: Libyan firefighters have failed to put out a huge oil tank blaze started by clashes around Tripoli airport, officials said Monday, adding that an air intervention is needed to avert a catastrophe.
State-owned National Oil Corp warned of a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe after the tank in southern Tripoli containing six million litres of fuel was set ablaze by rocket fire late on Sunday.
Residents have been urged to evacuate areas within five kilometres (three miles) of the blaze on the airport road, where fuel reserves of more than 90 million litres are stored.
“Firefighters have been trying for hours to put out the blaze but to no avail. Their water reserves finally ran out and they´ve had to leave,” said NOC spokesman Mohamed al-Hrari.
He said the only option left was “intervention by air”, as the government said several countries had offered to send fire-fighting aircraft in response to an appeal for international aid.
The Tripoli clashes, the most violent since the overthrow of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, started with a July 13 assault on the airport by a coalition of groups, mainly Islamists.
Fighting was still raging early on Monday, with explosions heard from central Tripoli. The attackers are battling to flush out fellow former rebels from the hill town of Zintan, southwest of Tripoli, who have controlled the airport for the past three years.
The health ministry said on Sunday the violence had killed 97 people.