A pall of smoke covers the city of Tripoli, as it rises from the military warehouse
By Nick Meo, Tripoli
4:49PM BST 24 Sep 2011
Anti Gaddafi security men at the scene insisted it was an accidental blaze, although bystanders speculated that it could have been the result of sabotage by Gaddafi loyalists.
There were scenes of chaos near the blaze in Libya‘s capital. Ambulances screeched past nervous gunmen who kept back crowds of sightseers on the sea front, about a mile east of the city centre.
The site of the blaze was shielded from view by warehouses and a wall, but a series of big explosions could be heard and debris was hurled out into the surrounding area.
Young militia men loyal to the capital’s National Transitional Council set up check points, cutting off approach roads and stopped journalists getting near.
One group of gunmen argued with a female foreign journalist who stormed off, shouting: “Don’t go near them, they will think you are an American spy.”
Other gunmen argued with each other about who had responsibility for security and shot into the air during a tense stand-off.
One young gunman said in English: “It’s just an accident, but you can’t get close because it may be dangerous.”
Workers from the yard said they believed it had been caused by an electrical fire and said fuel, paint and munitions had been engulfed by the blaze.
The plume of smoke rose far into the cloudless Tripoli sky, with the prevailing wind sending it along the coastline towards the city centre.
Shoppers and crowds enjoying an afternoon stroll had to breathe acrid foul air as the smoke descended.