An explosion at a fuel storage tank caused a huge blaze at Iraq's largest refinery on Monday, injuring at least 36 workers, and the fire was spreading, witnesses said.
A Reuters cameraman at the Baiji refinery complex, some 110 miles north of Baghdad, said he had seen at least one dead body and had counted at least 36 others suffering from burns.
"This is the biggest fire I have ever seen at Baiji refinery. We have not had a fire like this before," said an engineer, employed at the plant since 2003, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
He said the explosion had started in a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) unit.
Dozens of firefighting trucks converged on the scene from neighboring towns.
The engineer said the fire was spreading after an initial explosion at a storage tank containing 5 million liters of fuel.
A second engineer said a technical fault had started the fire.
The refineries at Baiji in north-central Iraq have capacity of 310,000 barrels a day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and have been operating at less than full capacity due to power cuts and other problems including fires.
In January 2007, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh said the country was losing $1.5 billion annually from attacks and theft at Baiji, which is vital to the nation's economy.
The internal pipeline taking crude oil from Iraq's northern Kirkuk oilfields to the refinery has also been prone to attacks by militants seeking to disrupt the flow of oil.