BAGHDAD, Iraq – A pipeline carrying oil byproducts exploded in a southern Iraqi city Tuesday, sparking a massive fire and killing 34 people and injuring another 45, police said.
Several people had been siphoning fuel from the pipeline when the explosion occurred in an industrial zone south of Diwaniyah, 130 kilometers (80 miles) south of Baghdad, police Lt. Raid Jabir said.
He said at least 34 people had been killed and another 45 injured. The reason for the explosion was not immediately clear.
Jabir said the massive fire in the area was hampering rescue efforts, and that Iraqi and coalition forces had cordoned off the area.
The pipeline is located 10 kilometers (six miles) south of Diwaniyah.
It was originally used to transport gas from the Shuaiba oil field in Basra to the Musayyab power station, but former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein converted it in 2003 to hold gasoline reserves for the army, Jabir said.
He said locals made a hole in the pipeline to siphon off fuel after the fall of Saddam's regime in 2003.
The town was the scene of fierce clashes between the Iraqi army and Shiite militia on Monday that left 40 people dead, but the situation on Tuesday was calm, the army said.