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Death toll of customs explosion lowered to 7 ‘after picture cleared’

By Rana Husseini - Oct 27,2015 - Last updated at Oct 27,2015

AMMAN — The death toll from the "huge" fire at the Jordan Customs Department (JCD) yards in the Abu Alanda area, southern Amman, was decreased to seven following a recount by the pathology department on Tuesday, official sources said.

Civil Defence Department (CDD) Media Director Brig. Gen. Farid Sharaa told The Jordan Times that “there was some confusion yesterday when our rescue teams placed the bodies in bags to send them for autopsy”.

“Many bodies were burnt beyond recognition while others were torn off and this is what caused the confusion in the count,” Sharaa told The Jordan Times.

The CDD official said on Tuesday that pathologists at the National Institute of Forensic Medicine confirmed that the number of dead were seven, including two Jordanians and five Egyptians.

The CDD official said that the ad hoc committee tasked with investigating the incident did not come out with results.

The task force was formed upon orders from Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour, who arrived at the accident scene and met with senior security officials.


“It will take the committee some time to determine the cause of the incident,” Sharaa added.

A senior official source told The Jordan Times on Tuesday that employees who are enrolled in the Social Security Department will be compensated.

“The container is most probably insured.  This will also cover any damages for the deceased and injured,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, added.

An officer at the media office of the CDD said the fire erupted after two containers of fireworks exploded, adding that the dead and the injured were workers at the yards and were Jordanian and Egyptian.

The CDD officer told The Jordan Times over the phone that several vehicles parked at the yardwere damaged by the fire.

Sharaa said more than 40 fire engines, ambulances and rescue vehicles and 150 individuals from the CDD, the customs department and the police took part in the five-hour operation to extinguish the fires and evacuate the dead and injured to nearby hospitals.

Khalid Shobaki, an employee at MAl Trans Company at the JCD said at around 3:15pm he heard a loud explosion while he was in his office.

“All the employees rushed out of the building quickly to check the matter and we saw thick smoke and fire from a parking lot inside the customs department,” Shobaki, who has been working for the company, located inside the JCD premises, said.

“Two containers and dozens of cars parked in the area were totally burnt or destroyed,” Shobaki told The Jordan Times.

The Jordanian casualties included the driver of the trailer that was supposed to drive the fire works back to Aqaba and Captain Suhail Fares of the JCD who was stationed there.

“Captain Fares was loved by everyone here and was known for his good deeds and respect for everyone. He will surely be missed,” Shobaki said.

Importing fireworks was banned by the government in 2009, except for those brought into the country by public agencies for national festivities.

But a government official told The Jordan Times on Monday that the containers were seized by customs officers several weeks ago and were stored at the yards before being re-exported to Nigeria. 

Referring to the fire’s causes, Assaf said the way the container burned can only be explained as the result of “carelessness” by the unloading workers, stressing that the storage location was far away from any source that could have led to the fire, a statement issued by the JCD said.

He said that JCD would get rid of other seized containers of fireworks as soon as possible to avoid similar accidents in the future.

Meanwhile, Egyptian Minister of Immigration and Egyptian Expatriate Affairs Nabila Makram arrived in Jordan on Tuesday to follow up on the incident and discuss compensation for the Egyptian victims’ families with Jordanian officials.

She met with Minister of Labour Nidal Katamine, who is also the chairperson of the Social Security Corporation (SSC).  

Katamine expressed his condolences over the death of the Egyptian nationals and wished a speedy recovery for the injured, according to an SSC statement.

SSC Director General Nadia Rawabdeh said the corporation discovered that three of the dead and two of the injured were  not registered with the SSC.

She stressed the SSC would immediately follow up on their cases with the companies hiring them to check on the applicability of the Social Security Law to their case, noting that if their companies did not register them with the SSC, the corporation would register them retroactively.

Death and  injury pensions would be disbursed to the heirs of the dead employees’ families covering 75 per cent of their salaries, with the addition of JD40 according to the Social Security Law, Rawabdeh announced, adding that the SSC would also pay JD500 for each death case as funeral expenses. 

As for the injured, she noted they will be fully covered with treatment expenses, and will receive 75 per cent of their daily wages for each day during their recovery period until their health conditions improve, the statement added.  


For her part, Makram expressed sympathies with the families of Jordanians killed in the accident, and wished the injured a speedy recovery, thanking Katamine and Rawabdeh for their response to the incident. 

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