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Middle East
Explosion rocks Egypt gas pipeline
Security official blames armed gang for "attack" at terminal that supplies natural gas to Jordan and Israel.
Last Modified: 27 Apr 2011 04:32
A blast struck a different section of the pipeline in February, sending flames into the air near the town of El-Arish [AFP]

An explosion in Egypt's North Sinai has rocked a terminal that supplies natural gas to Jordan and Israel.

Flames shot into the air at the al-Sabil terminal on Wednesday, sending nearby residents fleeing from their homes. No casualties were reported.

A security official blamed saboteurs for the blast south of the town of El-Arish, 50km from the border with Israel.

"An unknown armed gang attacked the gas pipeline near Arish city," the unnamed security source told the Reuters news agency, adding that the flow of gas to Israel and Jordan had been hit.

Armed forces rushed to the scene to put out flames as high as 20 metres (65 feet) shooting from the ruptured pipeline, Egyptian state news agency MENA reported.

Several hours later, Gasco, the company responsible for the pipeline, said the fire had been brought under control. A technical committee has been tasked with evaluating the damage, Gasco president Majdi Tewfik said.

The attack would not immediately impact Israel’s gas supply, Israel's National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau told army radio. Egypt supplies an estimated 40 percent of Israel's gas requirements.

Asked if he expected a shortage that would result in electricity cuts, Landau said: "No. There is still a certain amount of gas in the pipeline which we can use."

"After that, the electricity board must find alternatives by using gas from Yam Tethys or by using coal or fuel oil," he said, referring to Israel's existing gas field, which is on the verge of being depleted.

Amos Gilad, a senior official at Israel's defence ministry, told public radio it is "essential for the Egyptian government to follow a clear policy to ensure the provision of gas and to maintain the peace accord."

"The situation is very delicate, the only possible policy is to rely on the Egyptians," he added.

Jordan's Energy Minister Khaled Tuqan confirmed Egyptian gas supplies had been halted after the attack. "Power stations are now depending on heavy fuel and diesel to generate electricity," he said.

But he warned Jordan now has only "enough supplies of heavy fuel and diesel for two weeks." A previous disruption in February cost the Jordan economy some $4.2 million a day, Tuqan said at the time.

Jordan imports about 240 million cubic feet (6.8 million cubic metres) of Egyptian gas a day, or 80 percent of its electricity needs.

On February 5, an explosion at a different section of the pipeline severed gas exports to neighbouring Israel and Jordan in an incident that came during an 18-day popular uprising that forced former president Hosni Mubarak from power.

Egypt's natural gas company blamed the February incident on a gas leak, although local security officials said they suspected sabotage in that blast.

Bedouin tribesmen of the Sinai Peninsula attempted to blow up the pipeline last July as tensions intensified between them and the Egyptian government, which they accuse of discrimination and of ignoring their plight.

Source:
Agencies
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