MANAMA: Hundreds of people were evacuated from a hospital and homes in Buri last night following an oil pipeline explosion.
A massive blaze that followed the blast could be seen rising into the night sky from several kilometres away.
Firemen battled the flames for hours and police closed the location, resulting in tailbacks on major highways until past midnight.
The fire was brought under control with co-ordinated efforts of the Civil Defence and Bapco who closed the oil flow in the pipe, said the Interior Ministry.
The ministry said no injuries were reported and that an investigation into the cause was underway.
Shelter plan for evacuated residents from the area around the incident was also arranged.
Witnesses said the explosion happened at around 10pm near a bus station and around 100 metres from Al Amal Hospital.
They said the blast rocked the neighbourhood.
“It was around 10pm and we were returning from Zallaq and had stopped near Suq Waqif to have dinner,” said an Indian national, who identified himself as Suresh.
“We were getting back to our cars when we heard a big noise like an explosion and then we saw some sparks on the oil pipeline behind the hospital.
“Soon it was a blaze and I ran and got into my brother’s car and we literally escaped from the place.
“I left my car behind. It was very scary.”
Sources at Al Amal Hospital told the GDN the facility was evacuated within minutes.
“The blast was hardly 50m away from the hospital and staff and patients were quickly evacuated,” they said.
“They were all waiting outside for a while before they could be moved away as it looked so risky with the flames rising higher and spreading wider.
“There was a loud noise that shook the area.”
Some mosques and ma’atams in Buri reportedly opened to provide shelter to people evacuated from their homes.
Another Indian man, who identified himself only as Shajeer, was visiting his sister in the area at the time. “We were at my sister’s place and we heard an explosion,” he said.
“Looking out of the window it looked like a blast leading to a fire on the oil pipeline.
“Within 10 minutes the fire was huge and it was very hot, even inside the apartment.
“I knew it was risky to be there so I brought my sister and her family along with me to Manama.”
A Bahraini woman said she was shocked by the size of the blaze.
“I was driving down Shaikh Khalifa Bin Salman Highway at about 10.30pm when a police patrol car put its siren on and sped past me,” said 27-year-old Laala Kashef Alghata.
“As I approached the Seef flyover, I could see a huge blaze up ahead.
“I couldn’t tell exactly where it was, but it was clear that it wasn’t close and that it was huge – I was completely shocked by the size of it.”
A Briton who lives in Hamala first alerted the GDN to the blast.
“I heard an explosion that made the windows on my house vibrate,” she said.
“I went outside and saw a huge fire billowing into the sky.
“I could hear a couple of smaller explosions as the fire’s intensity increased.”
Witnesses said more than three houses and at least 10 cars in the vicinity of the blast were damaged.
The General Directorate of Traffic closed roads from Budaiya Highway to Hamad Town and urged motorists to seek alternative routes.
Bapco reported that the Supreme Committee for Emergency Management had met and took measures to isolate the affected pipe.
The refinery officials are engaged in continuous meetings to ensure safety and security.
Unconfirmed reports said an improvised explosive device targeted security personnel, although that could not be verified.