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11 dead as oil depot still burns, probe begins
Published on 2 Nov. 2009 10:36 PM IST
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Loud explosions were heard Monday as a devastating fire raged for the fifth day in Indian Oil’s depot near here. As the death toll rose to 11, a petroleum ministry committee began probing the cause of the destruction. The explosions took place at the depot as flames rose high from four of the 11 tankers containing petrol and diesel, officials helplessly watching the mayhem said. The blaze in the other seven tanks had died out. Black smoke formed dark clouds in a two-three kilometre radius around the depot at the Sitapura industrial area. The death toll in the tragedy rose to 11 after a man who had suffered severe burn injuries died late Sunday night. The probe panel visited the fire site and talked to some witnesses, official sources told IANS. The team, headed by former Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd chairman M.B. Lal, is to submit a report in 60 days. In a bid to provide relief to industries in the region, the Rajasthan government announced that they will be exempt from paying value added tax (VAT) till March 31, 2010. The blaze broke out at the Indian Oil Corp’s (IOC) depot in Sitapura, 20 km from the Jaipur city centre, at 7.15 p.m. Thursday evening. The depot had about 50,000 kilolitres of petroleum products worth Rs.150-200 crore. “We are waiting for the fuel to burn... We cannot do much till then. According to our information, the kerosene in three of the tanks has burnt out,” a district official said. The fire spread late Sunday to the roof of an electronic company building about 200 metres away from the IOC complex wall. It took over two hours for firemen to extinguish that blaze. With a dark cloud of smoke enveloping the area, people living in proximity of the depot are complaining of difficulty in breathing as well as itching in the eyes. The state pollution control board said it was monitoring the air quality. “Since Friday night I have been having problems in breathing... My doctor told me it is because of the smoke,” said Adesh Kumar, a resident of a nearby colony. Authorities have decided to open the industrial units situated near the fire site that had been shut since Thursday evening. Schools and colleges are likely to reopen Tuesday. The industrial units are demanding a relief package while residents of villages near the depot want the depot be shifted to another area. “We cannot live with this kind of danger... We want the government to shift this depot from here or shift us somewhere else,” said Lala Ram Meena of a village nearby. The Rajasthan government has separately set up two committees to assess the damage caused to industrial units and nearby villages.

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