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'The gates of hell opening up': What caused the massive Gulf of Mexico fire?

Footage of the inferno went viral over the weekend.

FOOTAGE OF A massive fire raging in the Gulf of Mexico was widely shared on social media over the weekend.

The inferno raged for several hours on Friday and was dubbed an “eye of fire” due to its circular shape.

The scale of the fire and biblical-like scene it created resulted in many memes and comparisons to Mordor in The Lord of the Rings.

But what caused the blaze and how was it brought under control?

The inferno formed off the coast of Campeche shortly after 5am local time on Friday (around 11am Irish time) after an underwater pipeline about 12 inches in diameter leaked, according to a statement from Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), Mexico’s state-owned oil company, which controls the pipeline.

The fire was doused with water from ships and was finally extinguished at 10.45am local time (around 4.45pm Irish time). Valves connected to the pipeline were shut off, according to a statement from the company.

As reported in The New York Times, Pemex said no one was injured during the incident.

The underwater pipeline in question is located 150 meters from a platform at Ku-Maloob-Zaap, an offshore oil field in the Bay of Campeche.

Angel Carrizales, head of Mexico’s oil safety regulator ASEA, wrote on Twitter that the incident “did not generate any [oil] spill”. However, many people questioned how this could be possible.

Pemex said an investigation has been launched into the incident.

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It is not immediately clear what level of damage the fire caused to marine life. Chris Robbins, senior manager for Ocean Conservancy, said researchers should be allowed to explore the area to assess any damage to marine life.

“The footage is pretty alarming: It looks like the gates of hell are opening up. This appears to have been snuffed out pretty quickly, but I do think it raises those questions. As long as we’re drilling for oil and natural gas, these kinds of accidents, unfortunately, are going to continue to occur,” he said.

Environmental groups have said the fire highlights the risks of relying on fossil fuels as climate change contributes to fatal heat waves and wildfires globally.

“These are the risks we face on a daily basis and which call for a change in the energy model,” Gustavo Ampugnani, executive director of Greenpeace Mexico, said in a statement.

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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