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Fire engulfs dock at Rhode Island port

Fire swept a dock at the Port of Providence on Tuesday night, sending large plumes of smoke and fireballs into the air.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Fire engulfed a dock area 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.

Officials said the ship was able to safely pull away from the dock.

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

Pare said about 100 firefighters were at the scene, and the blaze was expected to be under control shortly.

Early, incorrect reports were that the ship was burning. The immediate scene of the fire was not visible to reporters.

Roy Nash, Coast Guard captain of the port for southeastern New England, said ship traffic was temporarily suspended in Providence harbor until the tanker was able to dock elsewhere. He said the ship was under its own power, and was believed to still have some fuel on board. He said it would be checked for any damage.

Truck driver John Garrett said he was parked near the port facility when he saw a bolt of lightning, followed by an explosion and a large fireball.

Garrett said he could feel the heat from the initial explosion several hundred feet away in a nearby parking lot. “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.