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Oil Depot on Fire Amid Tripoli Clashes 07/28 06:09

   The Libyan government on Monday appealed for international help after a huge 
oil depot caught fire amid clashes over the country's international airport in 
the capital, Tripoli.

   CAIRO (AP) -- The Libyan government on Monday appealed for international 
help after a huge oil depot caught fire amid clashes over the country's 
international airport in the capital, Tripoli.

   The interim government said in a statement posted on its website that the 
fighting between rival militias caused the huge blaze, which could trigger a 
"humanitarian and environmental disaster."

   It appealed for "international help" but did not specify what exactly the 
government wants the world to do.

   Libyan TV stations called on residents to evacuate areas within a 
five-kilometer (three-mile) radius of the airport. Many Libyan families 
responded to the call and scrambled to leave their homes. Social networking 
sites posted images of black smoke billowing over the Tripoli skyline.

   The battle for control of the airport began two weeks ago when Islamist-led 
militias --- mostly from the western city of Misrata --- launched a surprise 
assault on the airport, which has been under control of a rival militia from 
the western mountain town of Zintan.

   The Health Ministry said Sunday that the fighting has so far killed 79 
people and wounded more than 400.

   On Saturday, the United States evacuated its diplomats from Tripoli to 
neighboring Tunisia and shut its embassy. The U.N. Support Mission in Libya and 
the International Committee of the Red Cross have already withdrawn their staff 
as well.

   Also Monday, Mohammed al-Harari, the spokesman for the Libyan National Oil 
Company, said the oil depot on fire has a capacity of 6 million liters (1.6 
million gallons) and that if the fire was not brought under control it could 
ignite nearby liquid gas storages.

   Firefighting engines from several nearby cities and towns have been deployed 
to help extinguish the blaze, said a Libyan security official, speaking on 
condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media. The 
fire, which he claimed was now under control, had also destroyed several 
government and private cars in the area.


(KA)


 
 
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