Saudi Arabia says gas pipeline fire killed 40

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RIYADH, Nov 20 (Reuters) The final death toll from a gas pipeline fire in Saudi Arabia on Sunday was 40, Saudi Aramco said today.

Officials had earlier said 28 people had died and 12 were missing after the fire that was caused by a gas leak near the Hawiyah natural gas liquids plant, which was extinguished.

The dead included 18 Pakistanis, seven Indians, seven Bangladeshis, six Saudis, one Nepali and one South African, state oil company Aramco said in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency.

Five of the six Saudi victims were employees of Aramco and the remaining 35 from a contracting company, it added.

One Western diplomat said the fire appeared to have been an accident rather than an act of sabotage.

Aramco is undertaking projects to boost output at the natural gas liquids recovery plant in Hawiyah.

The Hawiyah programme will produce 310,000 barrels of ethane and NGL products by 2008, through the plant and an expansion of the Juaymah gas fractionation plant near Ras Tanura.

The project will provide petrochemical feedstock to the industrial cities of Jubail and Yanbu in the kingdom, the world's largest oil exporter.

Aramco sources have said the fire was unlikely to cause serious delays to the Hawiyah project, as it broke out some distance away.

Japan's JGC Corp <1963.T> was awarded the contract for the Hawiyah NGL and related facilities.

Italian Eni's Snamprogetti is carrying out work related to gas treatment and compression facilities. Contracts for communication and plant infrastructure facilities were signed with local contractors.

REUTERS RSA BST2325

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