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Tanker explodes on a canal in northwestern Germany

26 April 2011

A tanker caught fire while being loaded with highly flammable fuel on a German canal in the town of Lingen an der Ems, in the northwestern state of Lower Saxony. A series of massive explosions rocked the ship near a BP oil refinery on the Dortmund-Ems canal where the ship was being loaded.

A significant amount of fuel leaked out, with firefighters spending hours trying to tackle the blaze. Eventually, they brought the flames under control, preventing them from spreading to fully loaded tankers nearby. All five crewmembers on the ship escaped the inferno, according to police, although one of the men suffered minor injuries.

The ship, which had around 900,000 litres (238,000 gallons) of premium gasoline on board, eventually sank next to the dock, with one section still sticking up out of the water. The gasoline also leaked onto the dock and caught fire. The six firefighters were able to prevent the flames from spreading across the surface of water with the use of a special foam. But the mixture repeatedly re-ignited and there remains a risk of both fire and explosion. The firefighters will try to absorb the fuel over the course of the day. Traffic on the Dortmund-Ems canal was stopped following the incident, while roads in the immediate vicinity of the refinery were closed during the night as a precaution. Nearby residents have been asked by the police to keep doors and windows closed due to the soot, although no other harmful substances have been found in the air. The cause of the explosion is still being investigated.

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