A large fire broke out at a shipyard in the southern Iranian port city of Bushehr on Wednesday, burning seven ships and sending plumes of black smoke billowing above the city skyline, according to videos and Iranian media reports.
The fire followed dozens of recent fires and explosions across Iran’s forests, factories and military and nuclear facilities in the past three months that have rattled ordinary Iranians. Iranian officials have said that some of the episodes may have been acts of sabotage but blamed weather, accidents and equipment malfunctions for the others.
On Tuesday an aluminum factory in the industrial city of Lamard in Fars Province caught fire. On Sunday, a fire broke out at petrochemical plant in Khuzestan Province.
An explosion at the country’s top nuclear facility in Natanz two weeks ago damaged the structure where centrifuges were assembled and has been attributed to Israeli sabotage.
There have also been explosions at two power plants, a chlorine gas leak at a chemical plant and an explosion at a missile production factory at a military complex in Tehran.
Some Iranian officials have said privately that they suspected that at least some of the fires and explosions were part of an American and Israeli military campaign against Iran but no official has publicly said whether any of the incidents are linked or blamed any country or group for them.
Some analysts speculate that various enemies of the Iranian government — not just the United States and Israel but possibly domestic groups as well — may be seizing the opportunity to stoke the chaos.
“There is a belief that those who want regime change in Iran are throwing everything they have at Iran to see which one would stick,” said Foad Izadi a conservative political analyst in Tehran. The waves of explosions and fires he said are “creating this sense of instability and chaos and insecurity.”
No casualties were reported for the shipyard fire on Wednesday. Local officials said the flames were so extensive that they had to call in additional fire engines from the navy, the Revolutionary Guards Corp and a nearby nuclear plant.
The fire was tamed after about five hours, local media reported.
Jahangir Dehghan, Bushehr’s top crisis official, said the cause of the fire was unclear but high winds and the fiberglass used in boat construction at the shipyard had contributed to its rapid spread, according to the Tasnim news agency. Fiberglass, however, is not generally flammable.
While government officials have not linked the fires and explosions, they have acknowledged that the number and frequency are unusual.
Aside from military and industrial fires, there have been more than 1,000 separate forest fires in the past three months. Parliament called in the ministers of environment and intelligence to question them about the forest fires, at least a fifth of which were believed to be arson.
Many Iranians and some officials suspect that the fires and explosions are part of a coordinated covert operation by the United States and Israel to pressure the Islamic Republic government to negotiate a new nuclear deal or to provoke a response and start a military confrontation.
The July 2 explosion at Natanz was part of a yearlong covert operation by Israel and the United States, American and Middle Eastern intelligence officials have said. Intelligence officials said the blast may have set the Iranian nuclear program back as much as two years.
Israel and the United States have sabotaged Iran’s nuclear program in the past.
But officials from both countries said they had nothing to do with the explosion at a missile production facility near Tehran in late June.