DALIAN, July 17 (Xinhua) -- Flames that engulfed a port in Dalian, a coastal city in northeast China's Liaoning Province, were basically extinguished Saturday morning, 15 hours after blasts hit two oil pipelines.
The fire and explosion caused no casualties, a city government spokesman said at a briefing at 10 a.m. The fire site was far from residential areas.
As of Saturday morning, fire fighters had switched off valves on all oil tanks and put the flames under control, said Xu Guochen, secretary-general of the city government.
He said more than 2,000 men and 338 fire engines from 14 cities across the province worked through the night to extinguish the fire.
The accident aroused the attention of China's top leadership, prompting instructions from President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang rushed to the fire site Friday night to direct the rescue work.
China's Air Force sent two Y8 aircraft to the rescue operation, carrying 17.8 tonnes of fire extinguishing agent.
The fire site was still overshadowed by smog Saturday morning.
At sina.com, China's leading news portal, local residents complained a stinging odor was smelt in all four downtown districts of Dalian.
Xu said the flames gave off gas containing sulphur and aromatic hydrocarbon that were not fatally toxic.
He left no time for questions at the briefing.
Authorities in Dalian are yet to assess the damage to the environment.
An explosion hit an oil pipeline of 0.9 meter in diameter at 6 p.m. Friday and triggered an adjacent smaller pipeline to explode near Dalian's Xingang Harbor.
Both pipelines, owned by China National Petroleum Corp., caught fire. The blaze of the larger pipeline was extinguished around midnight, but at least five subsequent explosions worsened the fire on the smaller pipeline.
A spokesman with the Dalian fire brigade said earlier it was too difficult for workers to switch off the oil pump on the smaller pipeline because of mechanical failures caused by the fire, and oil spills exacerbated the fire situation.
Firefighters had to switch it off by hand, which took much longer time, the spokesman said.
As of 9 a.m., the fire was under control but sporadic sparks were still seen at the site, he said.
The accident happened after a 300,000 tonne oil ship uploaded oil in the harbor. The tanker left the harbor safely.
The pipelines were links between oil ships and oil tanks on land.