ABU DHABI // Three diesel tanks exploded in Mussaffah yesterday, leading to power cuts and evacuations.
Firefighters spent more than five hours putting out what was said to be the biggest fire so far this Ramadan. Black smoke could be seen kilometres away.
A firefighter on the scene said the blaze started at 11.30am after the first tank, stored under an umbrella, exploded.
"We only received the call at 12 noon," the official said. "The owners tried to put the fire out by themselves first but could not.
"With these fires, if you cannot put it out in the first seven minutes it will take three hours. The first few minutes are critical."
While investigations are continuing, the Emergency and Public Safety Department said the tank exploded from the heat.
"It should not have been stored under the umbrella," an official said. "It's like a Coke bottle, it will keep fizzing until it explodes.
"Extreme heat led to the explosion. This is a clear violation. It should have been kept in a certain temperature."
He said his squad from Khalifa City A was called for backup as the fire continued until the early afternoon. By then it had gutted three empty rooms next door.
Soon after, the second tank exploded, then later a third.
Diesel leaked more than a 100 metres along the ground, causing police to close off roads.
Residents, mostly labourers, stood around the smoke, waiting for hours for it to be put out so they could return to their rooms.
"I live here, we have no electricity now," a worker said.
Police said all nearby residents were forced to leave their homes.
Police did not reveal the name of the company that owned the tanks.
While firefighters continued to work into the late afternoon, officials said supplies were running out.
Officers rushed to their SUVs and called their head office for more water. One said any water tank would do, even if it was from the municipality.
"After we put out one side, the other side continues to blaze," an officer told his colleague at the scene.
"When we go back to the other side, the other side starts again. It keeps going back and forth."
The fire was under control by 5pm but three other tankers next to the exploded ones were being cooled with water.
An officer said the cooling process would continue for an hour before a heat detector was sent in to ensure all of the flames had been put out and there were no more heat hazards.
While the non-Muslim firefighters took a break rehydrating themselves after they finished their jobs, their Muslim colleagues continued to fast in the heat.
"Of course we are fasting," an officer from the emergency response department said. "But God help us."