Decaying tanker threatens 'catastrophic explosion'

CNN's Kristina Sgueglia contributed to this report.CNN's Kristina Sgueglia contributed to this report.

The decaying SAFER FSO tanker contains an estimated 1.1 million barrels of oil and has been moored and left without maintenance near the Yemeni port of Ras Isa for several years, according to the UN.

Mark Lowcock, the UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, told the UN Security Council last week that the agency was planning to deploy an assessment team to the tanker this week, but was not able to secure the necessary permits.

He said the Houthi authorities that control the region "continue to delay" the assessment, despite the fact that they themselves asked the UN for assistance early last year.

The tanker has been stranded since 2015 and could be extremely dangerous.

"Because the engines haven't been running, the inert gases that are pumped into the storage tanks to stop the build-up of explosive gases from the stored oil haven't been topped up, which is why there are worries about a catastrophic explosion," Doug Weir, research and policy director at the UK-based Conflict and Environment Observatory, told CNN.

The aging tanker had been converted into a floating storage platform before the war in Yemen started.

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