Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar sincerely thanked Iran for prompt cooperation with its eastern neighbor and measures to contain the massive fire that erupted at a customs post on the common border on Saturday.
Speaking on Sunday, the Afghan minister said, “I sincerely thank the friendly country of the Islamic Republic of Iran for helping contain the fire and prevent further damages and opening its border to let in over 1,000 trucks,” IRNA reported.
At least 60 people were injured as hundreds of fuel vehicles exploded in the massive blaze, which disrupted power supplies and caused millions of dollars of damage, according to Reuters.
In addition to Atmar, Afghanistan’s Vice President Amrullah Saleh, in a message on his Facebook page, expressed his gratitude toward the Iranian government for its assistance in controlling the blaze and letting in hundreds of trucks fleeing the fire.
Governor General of the western province of Herat Waheed Qatali also thanked Iran for sending engines and firefighters to bring the fire under control.
He made the remarks in a meeting with Governor General of Iran’s northeastern province of Khorasan Razavi Mohammad-Sadeq Motamedian in Herat on Saturday.
According to Reuters, Iranian authorities sent fire engines and ambulances across the border, while scores of locals fought the blaze in the border town of Islam Qala before it was brought under control.
Initial reports said the blaze had started after a gas tanker exploded. Officials said later that the cause was not immediately clear.
Qatali said Iranian authorities were asked for assistance to help contain the fire, which damaged electricity infrastructure, leaving much of Herat’s capital city without power.
Thick plumes of black smoke and flames rose high into the air around the scene, television pictures showed.
Late on Saturday, IRNA quoted Jilani Farhad, a spokesman for Herat’s governor, as saying the fire was brought under control but that about 500 vehicles had been burnt.
Earlier, rescue workers and Afghan security forces moved hundreds of fuel and gas tankers from the area, Qatali said.
A Western official monitoring the situation told Reuters at least 60 people had been injured. Afghan officials gave a lower casualty toll, but said that number could rise.
Across the Iranian border, a regional emergency official, Mohsen Nejat, told state television Iran had sent 21 ambulances and 20 fire trucks to the scene.
More than 300 vehicles carrying gas, diesel and gasoline exploded, Hossein Akhundzadeh, a regional Iranian trade official, told Iran’s semi-official news agency ISNA.
“It’s not known whether the drivers were able to escape or not,” he said.
Wahid Tawhidi, a spokesman for power distribution company Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat, said 100 megawatts (MW) of electricity imported from Iran to Herat Province had been disconnected because two pylons had burned down.
He said 60 percent of Herat, one of Afghanistan’s largest provinces, was without power.
Younus Qazizada, the head of the Herat Chamber of Commerce and Industries, told Reuters the blaze had caused millions of dollars in damage.
“Preliminary investigations show that more than $50 million of damage has been caused by the fire so far,” he said.
Seventeen injured people were taken to hospital and the number of casualties could rise, said Mohammed Raffia Shiraz a spokesman for Herat’s Health Department.