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Jaipur Indian Oil depot blaze continues to rage
Published on 31 Oct. 2009 11:01 PM IST
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The massive fire at an Indian Oil depot here that has killed five people and injured 150 continued to rage for the third consecutive day Saturday. Officials are still waiting for the fuel stock to burn out and the blaze to die out, inviting criticism from residents. “We have taken steps to see that the fire does not spread much?nothing much can be done except wait for the fire to extinguish on its own,” a district official said. He said the fire should be controlled in the next 24-36 hours. The blaze broke out at the Indian Oil’s depot in Sitapura industrial area, about 20 km from Jaipur city centre, at 7.15 p.m. Thursday evening. “At least five people have been killed in the accident,” said Jaipur District Collector Kuldeep Ranka. Six employees of the depot are also reported missing. The fire, which could be seen from miles away, has destroyed nearby dwellings and industrial units. According to preliminary reports, of the 1,100 units situated in the area, over 500 have been damaged. “Each of these units must have suffered a loss of Rs.500,000-Rs.700,000 because of this fire...and this figure does not include our production loss,” S.N. Kabra, president of the Sitapura Industrial area, told IANS. Kabra flayed the government for not being prepared to handle a calamity of this enormity. “When they (authorities) knew that depots have been stationed here for a long time, why should they develop a residential and industrial area near here?” Kabra asked. “They (district administration) never had any equipment to deal with a fire like this and now they are praying for the fire to be controlled by itself?it is ridiculous,” said Ashok Kumar, a worker in a small scale unit in the industrial area. As the depot went up in flames Thursday, the administration quickly evacuated residential colonies, colleges and shut down industrial units in a three-kilometre radius. Roads in a five-kilometre radius have been blocked by the administration. The army was also pressed into action to help in the rescue efforts. Indian Oil rushed firefighting teams from Delhi, Panipat in Haryana and Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, while the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation sent a support team from Hazira in Gujarat. Union Petroleum Minister Murli Deora visisted the accident site Friday along with Indian Oil chairman Sarthak Behuri and other senior company officials. The minister was told that the fire would continue to burn till the fuel stock remains. The depot has about 50,000 kilolitres of petroleum products, worth about Rs.150-200 crore. Deora also announced that a high-level enquiry committee has been set up, to be headed by former chairman and managing director of Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd M.B. Lal. The committee has been given six weeks to submit a report to the petroleum ministry. Meanwhile, the inferno has sparked a blame game between the district administration and Indian Oil Corp. “Some of the residents informed us that they were able to smell a leakage from 4 p.m. onwards Thursday?(But) the oil company officials never informed us about that?We were only informed once the fire got out of control,” a district administration official said on condition of anonymity. The government now plans to shift the oil and gas depot at least 35 km away from residential areas. While it has not estimated the losses, Indian Oil said that the petroleum stocks were covered by insurance.

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