Maputo — The number of people arrested in connection with the attempted theft of fuel from the port of Matola, which caused a major fire on 13 December, has now risen to 18, according to a report in Wednesday's issue of the independent newssheet “Mediafax”.
Initially ten people were detained, but on Tuesday the police announced a further eight arrests, including a mechanic, and two supervisors and a guard employed by the private security company hired to protect the port. Among the other people now in custody are policemen, port employees and fishermen whose boats were used in the raid on the port.
According to the spokesperson for the general command of the Mozambican police, Inacio Dina, there are likely to be further arrests.
“The investigations are not yet closed”, he said. “We believe there are other people, including other port functionaries, involved in the theft of fuel. So there may be more detentions in the coming days”.
The thieves attempted to remove fuel from a pipeline running past the grain terminal. The operation went badly wrong when the fuel caught fire. The blaze destroyed seven of the motor boats used in the raid, and killed at least 17 of the thieves whose bodies, some charred beyond recognition, were recovered from the waters of Maputo Bay.
The fire caused extensive damage to the grain terminal, and forced the unloading of grain to be moved temporarily to other parts of the Maputo port complex. The cost of repairing the damage is put at over three million US dollars, and the repairs will take more than three months to complete.
From an abandoned house near the port, the police recovered about 8,000 litres of stolen fuel, and 757 empty containers that were to have been used to store fuel. This well-organised stash is one of the indications that theft of fuel at the port is a regular occurrence.