Explosion Sparks Massive Fire, Oil Spill Near Staten Island Refinery

A tanker explosion rocked an oil storage facility at the edge of Staten Island, New York, sending black smoke and flames hundreds of feet into the air, and a flood of oil to the adjacent waters.

The facility faces onto Arthur Kill, the primary entrance into the Port of Newark, and one of the busiest waterways in the world. Coast Guard Lt. Angela Cooper, said the Coast Guard closed off Arthur Kill from Tufts Point to Wards Point, effectively shutting nearly the entire length of the waterway to shipping.

Two workers died in the blast at the ExxonMobil depot. A third was badly burned and remains in critical condition.

"We have a preliminary report that a tanker was transferring a product or was being fueled and somehow ignited," Fire Department Chief William Van Wart said.

It wasn't immediately clear whether any of the dozens of oil tanks at the ExxonMobil storage facility burned.

FBI spokesman Steve Kodak in Newark, N.J., said there was no indication of terrorism. However, FBI officials in Washington said they were still examining it because a refinery is the type of infrastructure terrorists might target.

The Department of Homeland Security "is closely monitoring the situation with local state authorities and other federal agencies as well as assisting in the coordination of the response," said department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse.

The explosion, which could be heard and felt several miles away, occurred at the edge of Port Mobile, near the Outerbridge Crossing that links the island to Woodbridge, N.J., in the southwestern part of Staten Island, said a spokeswoman for the Staten Island borough office.

It was reported shortly after 10 a.m., according to a spokeswoman for the New York Fire Department. No injuries were immediately reported.

City officials said residents were not in immediate danger.

"At this point, people should not take any special precautions. It's unlikely this could spread to a residential area," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said shortly after the fire was reported.

Sgt. Charles McDevitt of the Woodbridge, N.J. police department said the fire "poses no hazard to the New Jersey side of the river."

However, Mr. McDevitt said that as a precaution, residents living in about 50 to 75 homes located directly across the Arthur Kill were being evacuated from the fire scene.

He said 14-16 officers and the Woodbridge fire department have been dispatched to the scene.

The New York Times

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