Sunday, December 19, 2010


I give my maid Sundays off just so that we can all, in theory, sleep in. (I nudge Vicky out of bed to put the garbage out.)

Bloody-minded neighbourhood people started testing mikes at 11 last night and started lousy slow songs at 7.20 this morning.

I wish I were in the Vizag colony I grew up where the only sounds in the morning were the cacophony of the birds, the blasts of the siren and the roar of Caltex burning. At least one could sleep in.

P. S. This is very interesting. I cannot seem to find a good link of the HPCL/Caltex fire. I'm told it is one of largest industrial disasters in Indian history.


Betterman said...

Is this what you were looking for?

Financial Express Report dated Monday, September 15 1997

HPCL Vizag refinery fire kills 22

Chitti Pantulu/Agencies

VISAKHAPATNAM, Sept 14: At least 22 people were killed
and 11 others injured critically in a pre-dawn explosion at the
liquified petroleum storage (LPG) facility of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL) at Visakhapatnam on Sunday.
Unofficial estimates, however, put the death toll higher, while company officials put the figure at five.

The state administration has evacuated scores of thousands of people from nearby areas to safer places, joint district collector PVS Murty said.An expert ONGC firefighting team rushed to the location this afternoon to put out the fire.

However, till the time of going to the press, the fires were still raging. Another ONGC team is expected to arrive here from Mumbai late on Sunday night.

Nearly 150 fire tenders from HPCL, the navy, the state
administration and neighbouring industrial units were pressed into service to put out the fire, which broke out at 6:15 am, following a suspected leak in the LPG pipeline from the Vizag port to the storage farm. It caused a series of explosions, and soon spread to at least six other naphtha and petrol tanks.

A thick blanket of smoke engulfed the port city, spreading panic among the residents in and around the Malkapuram area where the plant is located, locals said.

Attempts to put out the fire have been affected owing to a
shortage of fire-fighting foam. While additional consignments have been called for from Baroda by a special airforce plane.

"The consignment is being routed through Hyderabad, where the foam will be shifted to a smaller plane by around midnight," HPCL senior regional manager S Ghosh said.

Though the blast in the LPG sphere -- which is within the refinery complex-has not damaged the main plant, the operations have been suspended and should resume in four to five days' time.

What caused the fire;

There appeared to have been a lapse in procedure as LPG
pressure at the storage tank compared with that on the ship it was unloading had not been properly monitored, an official said. "A drop in pressure on shore compared with that on the ship implies a leak," an official said. "LPG was leaking from the time the ship started pumping it on shore late last night. It leaked for several hours as it was not detected."The leak could not be detected as imported LPG is odourless. "The gas is heavier than air, so it spread at ground level. There was a flash fire when the LPG ignited," the official said.

Damage in the vicinity;

Another official said that several other buildings in the vicinity of the refinery had been damaged by the blast, including a building owned by Indian Oil Corporation. The chief of the navy's eastern command, vice-admiral PS Das, said: "There has been some damage to our headquarters. We have to assess the extent of the damage."

What the police had to say;

A police official said 12 bodies had been recovered from the site and eight workers had died in hospital. "The fire has been localised, and there is no need to panic," district police
commissioner RP Meena said. Meena said that the refinery itself had not caught fire.

What HPCL and ministry officials had to say;

HPCL general manager RK Madan said that the refining unit was safe. "We have shut down the refining unit, and the fire has been isolated in the storage area."

A senior petroleum ministry official said 10 of the 16 storage tanks had burnt down, two were still burning and four were not on fire.

Sue said...

Betterman -- Thank you, that's helpful.