Jerusalem (Mar. 31)
A fierce fire fed by fuel oil and kerosene from hugs storage tanks raged in the Haifa port district tonight, following the blasting this morning of two pipelines in the refinery area. Preliminary estimates set the damage at $1,000,000, but the final figure will not be determined until the fire burns out, which is not expected for another 48 hours.
Whatever the final costs, they will be borne by the Jewish community, the Palestine Government announced tonight. Richard Stubbs, the government’s press officer, made the announcement, but did not specify how the funds would be collected. He declined to answer correspondent’s queries as to whether a collective fine was planned or an increase in the tax on petroleum products. The announcement stunned the Jewish community.
Immediately after the pre-dawn blast which, according to the JTA correspondent in Haifa, sent up a huge mushroom-like cloud of smoke similar to that caused by an atomic bomb, a curfew was clamped down on the Jewish section of Haifa but was lifted at noon. A black haze hung over the entire city. Tons of sea water from Haifa Bay were poured into the refinary area, but had little effect on the conflagration.
An official announcement said that eight storage tanks, each of which holds 9,000 tons, have already been gutted and six more are likely to be destroyed. Fire fighters, several of whom were injured, were trying to save the three remaining tanks in the area. The heaviest damage was suffered by the installations of the Anglo-Dutch Shell Oil Company, with the American-owned Texas Company suffering slight damage.
HIGH COMMISSIONER MEETS WITH TOP OFFICIALS; MARTIAL LAW RUMORED
Immediately after being informed of the fire, High Commissionor Sir Alon Cunningham is reported to have called a meeting of high civil and military authorities to discuss measures to be taken. Rumors spread that martial law was to be reimposed, but there was no confirmation of the reports.
A curfew was also imposed on Rehovoth today by troops searching for the extremists who ambushed a party of British officers on Saturday, killing one and mortally wounding a police inspector. Fifteen Jews were arrested and held for further investigation.
In a broadcast over its underground radio last night, the Irgun Zvai Leumi expressed regret that its “soldiers” had destroyed water pipes at Kiryat Haim yesterday, leaving the settlement without a local water supply. It explained that the water pipes had been mistaken for oil pipelines. At the same time, the broadcast admitted that the Irgun had blown up the pipelines twice last week.
The announcer denied a recent report that the Irgun had sent a memorandum to the Big Four on the Palestine situation, declaring that only the U. S., the U. S. S. R. and France had been contacted. “The only memoranda we are sending to England are written in lead,” he added.