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Scenes of destruction at Saudi oil plant hit by attacks

Saudi engineers use cranes to remove the mangled wreckage of production machinery at the Khurais oilfield, one of two facilities hit by dramatic drone and missile strikes last Saturday (AFP Photo/Fayez Nureldine)

Khurais (Saudi Arabia) (AFP) - The dramatic weekend assault on two Saudi oil facilities saw one of the targets struck four times sparking fires that took five hours to extinguish, the national oil company said Friday.

At the Khurais plant in eastern Saudi Arabia, a charred web of pipes and supports was flanked by cranes as staff assessed the extensive damage to an oil stabiliser apparatus.

The US has blamed Iran for the attacks, which have been claimed by Tehran-backed Yemeni rebels, condemning them as an "act of war" which knocked out half the kingdom's oil production.

"There were more than 200 to 300 people inside the facilities," said Fahad al-Abdulkareem, a general manager at the state-controlled Saudi Aramco oil company, as he inspected the damage.

The company flew in dozens of journalists, both local and foreign, on an Aramco jet to see the aftermath of the attacks which have ratcheted up tensions in the tinderbox region.

"The whole thing had happened, with four strikes and explosions, with no single injury to any of them," Abdulkareem said.

Thick metal piping was badly warped and peppered with shrapnel during the aerial strikes and lay strewn around the area of the attack.

Saudi officials this week unveiled what they said were fragments of 25 drones and cruise missiles fired at the two oil facilities on Saturday.

Despite the extent of the damage, managers remain optimistic that production can be fully restored by the end of September.

"An emergency team was assembled to restore the plant and the activities and bring the crude and the oil back. Within 24 hours, 30 percent of the plant was in production," said Abdulkareem.

"We will have production at the same level as before the strike by the end of this month -- we are coming back stronger."