Explosion at chemicals factory injures 12 outside Cairo airport

An explosion at an Egyptian petrochemical facility near Cairo’s airport injured 12 people on Thursday and sent up a massive fireball that lit the capital’s skyline, but did not affect air traffic in the North African hub. 

The nighttime explosion at the warehouse roughly three kilometres from the airport could be heard across Cairo, shaking windows and setting off car alarms. 

The military said a warehouse belonging to the Heliopolis for Chemical Industries company, which it owns, blew up due to "an increase in air temperatures."

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It was not immediately clear what chemicals were stored at the facility. The military’s production arm manufactures everything from ordnance to refrigerators. 

At least 12 people were taken to hospital, the state newspaper Al-Ahram reported on its website. 

The explosion occurred in a chemical tank near the Cairo airportCredit:

The warehouse is close to airport on the eastern outskirts of Cairo, and there was an initial panic that the explosion took place within the perimeter of the sprawling air hub, the second busiest in Africa after Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport.

The aviation ministry, however, said no flights had been delayed. 

"The explosion took place outside the airport…and air traffic was not affected," it said in a statement.

Egypt has tightened security in and around its airports following an Isil bombing of a Russian plane carrying holidaymakers from the Red Sea resort Sharm El-Sheikh  in 2015. 

The attack, carried out with a soda can filled with explosives smuggled aboard the Metrojet flight, killed 224 people and prompted Russia to stop all flights to Egypt, and the UK to end flights to Sharm El-Sheikh.

Russia has resumed flights to Cairo, but not to Sharm El-Sheikh, after assessing Egypt’s new aviation security measures. 

Britain will likely resume its flights to Sharm El-Sheikh, formerly a popular holiday destination for British tourists, once Russia lifts its travel ban on the resort.

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