Yemen evacuates hundreds from mortar-hit gas terminal

AFP , Sunday 8 Dec 2013

Yemen LNG gas company has evacuated hundreds of workers from its Balhaf terminal on the Gulf of Aden, after a mortar round hit the site, an oil ministry official and employees said Sunday.

Company staff, including foreigners, were evacuated to the capital on four planes as a precaution over fears of potential attacks on the terminal, employees said.

The evacuation of non-essential staff, however, did not affect operations and liquefaction trains, which have a capacity of 6.7 million tonnes of LNG per year, the ministry official said.

He said the plant employs some 1,200 staff and that the partial evacuation was decided after a mortar shell hit the port.

Yemen LNG said a "minor explosion occurred" inside the plant on Friday, adding that the blast caused only slight damage to non-essential equipment and that a probe has been initiated.

The Yemeni army deployed reinforcements around the sprawling site, where LNG exports were launched in 2009, military sources said.

France's Total and Texas-based Hunt hold shares in Yemen LNG.

The blast came a day after a massive attack on the defence ministry complex in Sanaa that left 56 people dead and was claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi said in August that a bid to attack the Balhaf terminal had been foiled after a phone call was intercepted between Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri and the leader of the Yemeni branch of the jihadist network.

Sanaa also said it had foiled an Al-Qaeda plot to storm the Canadian-run Mina al-Dhaba oil terminal and seize the port of Al-Mukalla, capital of the eastern province of Hadramawt.

AQAP denied plotting any such attacks.

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