Libyan responders flee fuel depot fire

Escalating violence prompts evacuation of British nationals.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Aug. 4, 2014 at 9:50 AM
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TRIPOLI, Libya, Aug. 4 (UPI) -- A fuel fire near the international airport in Tripoli may be on the verge of creating a humanitarian and environmental disaster, the Libyan government said.

The Libyan government said a fuel depot near the airport suffered a direct hit after militias armed with heavily artillery surrounded the area.

"This led to the withdrawal of firefighters," Sameer Kamal, spokesperson for the Ministry of Oil, said Sunday.

The spokesman said the smoke and fire could present a major threat to the surrounding area in Tripoli.

At least 200 people have died as a result of fighting between Islamist militias and pro-government forces since July. Foreign governments, including the United States and European powers, have suspended diplomatic operations in Libya because of the recent outbreak of violence.

The interim government in Tripoli said last week it needed outside help in controlling the violence. International forces intervened in Libya's civil war in 2011, sparking the downfall of the regime of Moammar Gahdafi and his eventual death.

The Libyan National Oil Co. said the violence made it difficult to feed the domestic gasoline market, leaving many filling stations without fuel.

Escalating violence in Tripoli prompted the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office to close its embassy Monday. The HMS Enterprise is in the area helping evacuate British nationals from Libya.

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