November 4th, 2009

Update: Explosions and Fire at Oil Storage Depot, Jaipur, India

Posted at 2:23 PM ET

small-oil-refinery-india-mapA massive fire broke out on October 29, 2009 at an oil storage depot in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, killing at least 11 people and injuring 135 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. Reports said much of the depot at the Sitapura Industrial Area went up in flames, including all 11 oil storage units. The fire, thought to be one of the worst fire-related incidents in IOC’s history, has been burning for 6 days. Officials said one of the 11 containers is still ablaze but it is expected to burn out within the next 24 hours. Army personnel joined 35 firefighter teams to contain the flames, but they abandoned attempts to extinguish the blaze because the high temperatures prevented them getting close enough.

oil-refinery-india-map

An IOC official said initial estimates indicate that products valued at 1.5 billion rupees (USD32 million) have been burnt, and the petroleum stocks were insured. According to local reports, Indian Oil also has property insurance cover worth 2.3 billion rupees (USD49 million). The Economic Times said the lead insurer for IOC is ICICI Lombard with 50 percent of the share, followed by Oriental Insurance, which accounts for around 25 percent. The publication added that IFFCO Tokio and state-owned National Insurance covers the remaining 25 percent while the national reinsurer, General Insurance Corporation, has reinsured close to 35 percent of the cover.

The company has made alternative 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 kilolitres each of gasoline, diesel and kerosene, but the tanks were not filled to full capacity. The depot was storing 7,000 kilolitres of gasoline, 24,000 kilolitres of diesel and 1,000 kilolitres of kerosene at the time of the blaze, reports said. According to the Sitapura Industrial Association, at least 500 small and large adjoining factories were damaged by the fire, with losses ranging from 500,000 rupees (USD10,000) to 700,000 rupees (USD15,000). Evacuated residents have also reported damage to their houses as they returned home, according to reports. Moreover, some residents have complained about respiratory, eye and skin problems since the incident and experts fear the smoke has also affected farms in the surrounding villages.

Reports said eight workers were working at the depot when it caught fire. Eleven people (five reportedly workers at the depot) were killed in the incident. Another 135 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 (USD4,200) for the seriously injured and 100,000 rupees (USD2,100) 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, The Times of India, The Economic Times, Indian Express, Accord Fintech, Indo-Asian News Service

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