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Oil Tanker Catches Fire Off Yemen

October 6, 2002

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SAN`A, Yemen (AP) _ A French oil tanker caught fire off the coast of Yemen Sunday, officials said.

Yemeni officials attributed the blaze to a leak from the tanker’s load of crude oil. They said there was no indication of terrorism.

A French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman in Paris said it was too soon to say what caused the fire. She said the ministry was seeking details from its embassy in Yemen.

The Yemeni officials said 11 members of the crew of 25 were taken to shore in an initial evacuation while others stayed behind to fight the fire. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

``The situation aboard the ship is difficult, and the flames are rising from the burning oil barrels,″ said the official Yemeni news agency Saba, quoting an unidentified source.

The tanker caught fire about three miles from Yemen’s Arabian Sea port of Mina al-Dabah and its captain issued a distress call to port authorities, the Yemeni officials said.

They said tanker was coming from the Iranian port of Khark carrying 397,749 barrels of crude and was to load more at Mina al-Dabah, 500 miles southeast of the capital San`a.

The port, 350 miles east of Aden, is relatively quiet and is mainly used by tankers to load oil.

In 2000, an explosion nearly destroyed the USS Cole during a refueling stop at Aden port. The blast killed 17 U.S. sailors and was blamed on Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terror network.

Security has since been tightened at Yemeni ports.

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