SINGAPORE -- A fire ignited by lighting swept through the world's third largest oil refinery Saturday, shooting flames hundreds of feet into the sky as it burned up millions of dollars of petroleum.
One fireman was injured battling the fire at the Shell Eastern Petroleum Co.'s refining center on Pulau Bukom Island, about a mile southeast of Singapore.
The fire was apparently sparked by a bolt of lightning. 'It was a fantastic sight,' said one Singapore resident. 'Flames shot up about 400 feet.'
Intense flames engulfed and destroyed a storage tank containing about 18,000 barrels of oil. A Shell spokesman said damage was estimated at several million dollars.
'We have not yet worked out a figure but we know that much of the oil products in the tank have been destroyed,' he said.
He said the refinery, the world's third largest, would continue normal operations and that production for its European and Asian customers will not be affected.
The fire began early in the morning and burned for more than 12 hours. It was finally allowed to burn itself out after some 100 firemen prevented it from spreading.
'The intense heat coupled with the danger of explosions made operations hazardous and difficult initially,' said one fireman.
Two landing craft from the Singapore military and another one from Shell ferried fire engines from the Singapore mainland to reinforce the oil company's own fire service at the refinery island.
Shell personnel pumped out 88,000 barrels of oil from the tank, which contained about 106,000 barrels, when the fire began.
One hundred other 400,000-barrel storage tanks containing gas and oil were near the burning tank. Their contents were also pumped into an area away from the blaze.