CAIRO (Reuters) – A major fire broke out after a leak of oil from the Shuqair-Mostorod pipeline next to a busy highway in a Cairo suburb on Tuesday and 17 people were injured, authorities said.
The pipeline runs along a motorway on the outskirts of the capital and a spark caused by passing cars ignited crude that was leaking from the pipe, the petroleum ministry said.
The pipeline’s valves were immediately closed in the area of the blaze and the flames were brought under control, it added in a statement.
There was no immediate word from authorities on why the pipeline, located some 1.5-meter (5-ft) deep in the ground, had leaked.
A witness at the scene said about two dozen cars were torched, apparently abandoned by motorists. A video posted online showed two residents pulling an injured person away from the highway while thick plumes of smoked billowed skyward.
Petroleum Ministry spokesman Hamdy Abd El Aziz told local TV officials had cordoned off the pipeline and road when the leak had been discovered but motorists had kept driving by which probably sparked the fire.
He did not say when pumping would resume or how much crude had been flowing when the fire broke out. He also refused to say how the underground pipeline could have been damaged, referring to a committee investigating the incident.
The state prosecutor dispatched a team to investigate, a statement said.
The crude pipeline runs from the Red Sea oil port of Shuqair to the called Egyptian Refining Co (ERC) complex of Mostorod in Greater Cairo.
Egypt’s Qalaa Holding, Qatar Petroleum and state-run Egyptian General Petroleum Corp (EGPC) are invested in the refinery business with other partners.
(Reporting by Mahmoud Mourad, Ehab Farouk, Nayera Abdallah and Ulf Laessing; Writing by Nadine Awadalla and Ulf Laessing; Editing by Jane Merriman, Nick Macfie, Mark Heinrich and Marguerita Choy)