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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 January, 2004, 10:47 GMT
Algeria blast shatters gas plant
Grab picture from Algerian TV of rescuers at the gas plant near Skikda
Witnesses said windows were blown out as people fled the building
An explosion at a natural gas plant in Algeria has killed at least 23 people and injured 74 others.

The blast took place at a state-owned liquefied natural gas complex in the industrial zone of the north-eastern coastal town of Skikda.

The blast, which happened at 1840 (1740 GMT), on Monday is being blamed by workers on a faulty boiler.

Algeria is a major oil and gas producer and has one of the world's largest natural gas reserves.

Powerful explosion

Those injured in the explosion were taken to a hospital at Annaba, 600 kilometres (400 miles) east of Algiers, as well as the Ain Nadja military hospital specialising in burns, in the suburbs of Algiers.

Algeria's Minister of Energy and Mines, Chakib Khelil, arrived on the scene within hours of the blast.

He told Algerian state radio that three liquefaction units had been destroyed in the explosion.

"We will undoubtedly have to rebuild everything," he added.

One witness told Reuters the explosion was felt miles away.

"Everyone in the building rushed out, all windows were blown out," another witness, who lived near to the refinery, told state radio.

The plant was used to liquefy Algerian gas from the Sahara for export to Europe.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has visited the disaster site.

Several visibly upset workers complained to him that they had repeatedly warned of a possible disaster and a faulty boiler but no one had listened.

The BBC's Heba Saleh
"This is Algeria's worst industrial disaster since independence"

Country profile: Algeria
08 Sep 03  |  Country profiles


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