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Blast At Egypt Gas Terminal 'Caused By Leak

Sam Kiley and Pete Norman - Sky

The head of Egypt's natural gas company says a fire at a terminal supplying Israel in the northern Sinai Peninsula was caused by a leak - not terrorist activity.

The fire after the explosion could be seen 44 miles away

The fire following the explosion could be seen more than 40 miles away


The fire, preceded by an explosion, did not cause casualties, however the flow of gas to both Israel and Jordan had to be shut off to contain the blaze.

Earlier, the regional governor in the Sinai, Abdel Wahab Mabrouk, had blamed the incident on "sabotage".

The head of the Egyptian company for natural gas, Magdy Toufik, countered that earlier claim and said in a statement that the fire broke out as a result of a "small amount of gas leaking".

Egyptian state TV had also blamed "terrorists" for the explosion, which saw flames towering into the sky near the Gaza Strip.

Men examine debris after an explosion at a gas facility supplying Israel and Jordan occured after a leak ignited, 5 February 2011.

Egyptian men examine debris after the gas leak explosion

The blast came as a two-week-old popular uprising has engulfed Cairo and Alexandria.

Last week, Egypt reinforced the Sinai peninsular with two battalions of troops to protect tourists at Red Sea resorts and to support police who continue to help Israel maintain the long standing siege on Gaza, home to a million Palestinians.

Israel has a 15-year contract to import gas from Egypt, worth billions, but the deal signed in 2008 has been unpopular with many Egyptians.

The Sinai Peninsula, home to Bedouins, has also been the scene of clashes between residents and security forces because tribesmen complain that they are missing out on development opportunities.

At this stage, the gas supply to Israel was stopped according to procedure in emergency scenarios

Chen Ben Lulu, spokesman for Israel's infrastructure ministry

The leak and explosion occurred early Saturday at a gas terminal in the northern Sinai town of el-Arish, several hundred yards away from the local airport.

Mr Mabrouk told Egypt's Nile News TV that the fire was brought under control by mid-morning, after valves allowing the flow of gas from the terminal into pipelines were shut off.

The pipeline was carrying gas to Jordan but Israel temporarily shut down its service, officials said, as "a precaution".

Jordan said gas supplies from Egypt were expected to remain halted for a week until the pipeline was repaired.

The explosion and fire occurred near pipelines to Israel and Jordan

The fire occurred near gas branch lines to Jordan and Israel

A Jordanian energy source said the kingdom had switched power generating stations to burning fuel oil and diesel as a precaution, after the cutoff of the Egyptian supply.

The blaze shooting vertically in the air was visible from rooftops of homes next to the Gaza-Egypt border, about 44 miles away.

The pipelines transport gas from Egypt's Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea to Israel and Jordan and supplies about 25% of the gas used to generate Israel's electrical power.

The explosion comes as Israelis watch events anxiously in Cairo where a change of regime, many believe, could undermine Israel's 30-year peace treaty with the Jewish state's neighbour.