Firefighters douse ship that exploded at major port in Dubai

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Firefighting boats on Thursday poured cascades of water on a container ship that had erupted in a fiery explosion at Dubai’s main port the previous night, rocking the commercial hub of the United Arab Emirates.

Satellite images captured by Planet Labs Inc. and analyzed by The Associated Press showed that intensive efforts to cool the Ocean Trader were continuing some 12 hours after the blast at Jebel Ali port, as fireboats doused the area with water. Port authorities said they were still investigating the cause of the blast.

The photos also showed a thin sheen of what appeared to be an oil-water mix spreading from the vessel into the gulf. Dubai authorities reported a “leakage” from the ship, without elaborating. They said the ship had been carrying containers full of unspecified “flammable materials.”

The government said the explosion caused no casualties. The blast, which sent a giant fireball skyward late Wednesday and shook homes and high-rises in several neighborhoods across Dubai, was powerful enough to be seen from space by satellite. Panicked residents filmed the eerie orange glow over Dubai’s futuristic skyline, reporting trembling walls and windows over 15 miles away from the port.

Dubai authorities also sought to stem the fallout from the shocking explosion, praising the “record time” it took firefighters to contain the flames and stressing the crucial port operations had not experienced any disruption.

The state-run media office and Dubai police did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the incident. Authorities restricted media access to the area, citing the ongoing investigation. In aerial footage of the aftermath released by the government Thursday, the stricken vessel is visible for just a few seconds before the camera pans to the rest of the vast port. The small Ocean Trader appears charred, with thick plumes of gray smoke still billowing from its containers and blackened debris littering the terminal.

The UAE’s state-linked newspaper The National, citing an unnamed official, reported “minor injuries” — mostly bumps and scrapes — as the crew “fled from the ship and the area was evacuated.” The paper said the crew rushed to evacuate after spotting smoke rising from one of the containers.

The Jebel Ali port, on the eastern side of the Arabian Peninsula, is the biggest port in the Middle East and busiest port of call for American warships outside the U.S. It’s not only a critical global cargo hub, but a lifeline for Dubai and surrounding emirates, serving as the point of entry for essential imports.

The explosion occurred around 11:45 p.m. Wednesday, as Dubai’s temperature hit 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit), with heat and humidity along the coast approaching summer peaks.

Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell in Hamilton, Ohio, and Malak Harb in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.