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from the Boston Times -

Fire strikes Providence dock as tanker unloading
By Ray Henry, Associated Press Writer | July 19, 2006

Fire engulfed a dock at the Port of Providence on Tuesday night when lightning struck as a tanker was unloading gasoline, sending large plumes of smoke and fireballs into the air.

Assistant Fire Chief Mark Pare said the 600-foot tanker was unloading gasoline when lightning struck nearby and set off a fire. He said no injuries were reported.

Pare said about 100 firefighters were at the scene.

The blaze had been largely contained by early Wednesday morning, although firefighters were allowing smoldering flames near the dock to burn out, said Armand Randolph, a spokesman for the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency.

Coast Guard Capt. Roy Nash, captain of the port for southeastern New England, said traffic was temporarily suspended in Providence Harbor until the Nord Europa can dock elsewhere. The ship was believed to still have some fuel on board. Nash said it would be checked for any damage.

The state Department of Environmental Management is investigating whether any fuel spilled into the harbor, said Jeff Neal, a spokesman for Gov. Don Carcieri.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm watch for the area earlier in the evening, and bolts of lightning flashed overhead as firefighters poured water onto the flames.

Four lightning strikes were recorded near the port between 10:25 and 10:30 p.m., meteorologist Eleanor Vallier-Talbot told The Providence Journal.

Truck driver John Garrett said he was resting in his truck near the port facility when the storm hit. He woke up as winds and hail shook his trailer, he said.

Looking out a window, he saw a bolt of lightning hit near the dock, followed immediately by a large explosion and fireball, he said. Garrett said he could feel the heat from several hundred feet away.

"I've never seen anything in the world like this," he said.

The fire happened at a terminal owned by Motiva Enterprises, a Houston-based joint operation between Saudi Refining Inc. and Shell Oil Co.

Darci Sinclair, a spokeswoman for Motiva, said the company was investigating.

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