October 30th, 2009

Explosions and Fire at Oil Storage Depot, Jaipur, India

Posted at 8:46 AM ET

indianoilfiremapA massive fire broke out on October 29, 2009 at an oil storage depot in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, killing at least six people and injuring 150 others. Two huge explosions were heard before the fire ignited and rapidly spread. Reports said the blaze ignited most of the depot, including every oil storage unit. The fire broke out around 19:30 local time (14:00 UTC) at the Jaipur storage depot run by Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and was visible from over 25 kilometers (16 miles) away, according to reports. Company officials said the depot covers an area of several square kilometers and the oil tanks store gasoline, diesel and kerosene fuel for several state-owned oil companies. Reports said the depot has a 100,000 kiloliter capacity.

The blasts and subsequent fire sent huge flames and black smoke into the air, prompting emergency services to evacuate thousands of people while authorities cut power to the entire city of Jaipur as a precaution. The fire continues to rage, more than 20 hours after it broke out, and officials said the blaze is thought to be one of the worst fire-related incidents in IOC’s history. Army personnel have joined 35 firefighter teams to contain the flames, but an oil ministry official said the intensity of the blaze has prevented them from getting close enough to extinguish it. The Indian Oil Ministry said there was little the troops and firefighters could do to contain the blaze other than let the fuel burn out. Fire officials said the blaze could burn for another 24 hours.

Reports said much of the depot was ablaze, including all 11 oil storage units. An IOC official said initial estimates indicate that products valued at 1.5 billion rupees (USD30 million) have been burnt, and the petroleum stocks were insured. The company has made alternate arrangements to supply products to areas that were receiving fuel from the Jaipur depot. The IOC said the depot can store up to 35,000 kiloliters each of gasoline, diesel and kerosene, but the tanks were not filled to full capacity. The depot was storing 7,000 kiloliters of gasoline, 24,000 kiloliters of diesel and 1,000 kiloliters of kerosene at the time of the blaze, reports said. Other adjoining factories have also reportedly been destroyed by the fire.

Reports said eight workers were working at the depot when it caught fire. At least six people (all reportedly workers at the depot) were killed in the incident. Another 150 people were injured and at least 80 people were admitted to local hospitals with burn injuries. The Indian government has announced compensation of 1 million rupees (USD20,000) for the families of those killed, 200,000 rupees for the seriously injured and 100,000 rupees for those who sustained minor injuries.

State anti-terror police said there was no immediate indication to suggest the fire was the result of any attack. Although the cause of the incident has yet to be determined, IOC officials said the explosions and fire may have been triggered by a leak in a gasoline pipeline. The government has created a five-member committee to investigate the cause of the fire.

Sources: CNN News, Associated Press, Reuters News, Agence France Presse, BBC News, Xinhua News Agency, Indo-Asian News Service

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