EghtesadOnline: Iran’s Dogharoun border terminal with Afghanistan in Khorasan Razavi Province will be closed for at least two weeks after a fuel tanker exploded at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday in a parking lot on the Afghan side of the border [Islam Qala crossing in Afghanistan’s Herat Province].
“The explosion set fire to at least 100 fuel tankers nearby,” Javad Hedayati, a senior official with Iran Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization, told ILNA.
“We were quick to open Iran’s border to allow Iranian and Afghan truckers to return to the country and keep away from the fire,” he added.
Noting that Afghan officials have yet to determine the cause of the explosion, the official said, “Mahiroud border crossing in South Khorasan Province and Milak border crossing in southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan Province [which are the main trade corridors between the two countries] must be ready for a surge of trucks and traffic.”
Firefighters struggled for a second day on Sunday to battle the massive fire.
Dozens were injured and many of the more than 500 trucks lined up at the Islam Qala crossing carrying natural gas and fuel were still ablaze.
Herat Governor Wahid Qatali said first responders were quickly overwhelmed on Saturday by the huge, out-of-control fire.
"When each cylinder was exploding, it was flying 100s of meters high," he told AP.
Two explosions at the border crossing were powerful enough to be spotted from space by NASA satellites. One blast erupted around 1:10 p.m. Afghan time (0840 GMT), the next around half an hour later at 1:42 p.m. local (0912 GMT).
Satellite photos taken on Saturday before the explosion showed dozens of tankers parked at the border crossing.
Qatali said officials were concerned that windy conditions on Sunday could fan the flames and spread the fire to even more fuel-laden trucks in the area. He said the government was able to save more than 1,200 trucks.
Herat's chamber of commerce and industries chief, Younus Qazizada, said the explosion and fire started when provincial customs employees were inspecting a gas tanker. But an investigation into the cause of the fire continued on Sunday.
"If the government would have invested the income of a single day of customs [tariffs] in the firefighting department, this chaos wouldn't have happened," Qazizada said.
ISNA reported an estimated $50 million loss of goods and consignments in the catastrophe.
Qazizada said the losses were twice that much.
Qatali, the provincial governor, said the investigative team will inspect video footage of the area but Wakel Ahmad Karokhi, a Herat provincial council member, said the customs facility was entirely ravaged by the fire.
The fire spread Saturday to the Dogharoun customs facilities on the Iranian side of the border and first responders, including the fire department, the Iranian Army and border forces, were assisting in extinguishing the blaze, according to Iranian state television.
The Afghan side of the border crossing has its own fire department, but officials in Herat said they were never in control of the blaze.
Iran sent 15 firefighting units to the Afghanistan side to help.
The Islam Qala border crossing is around 120 kilometers west of the city of Herat and is a major transit route between Afghanistan and Iran.
The Afghan government is working on an alternative to resume trade between the two countries, as Afghanistan is mostly dependent on imported goods from neighboring countries.
Iranian officials say they will accelerate the customs process at other border crossings with Afghanistan.
“The fire continued to burn on Sunday and the explosions shut down the power grid between Iran and Afghanistan, leaving Herat in the dark,” said Wahidullah Tawhidi, spokesman of the Afghan Ministry of Power Supply.
According to ISNA, Iranian authorities allowed 2,000 trucks to move into the Iranian side from Islam Qala to prevent further damage. Seven of the injured were transferred to hospitals inside Iran.
Iran exported $1.2 billion worth of non-oil goods to Afghanistan during the first eight months of the current fiscal year (March 20-Nov. 21).
Iron and steel bars had a major share of the exported products with 177,700 tons worth $70 million, Fars News Agency reported.
Iran also exported 798,100 tons of cement worth $21.4 million to the neighboring country during the period.