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12 killed as oil depot catches fire in Jaipur.

A MASSIVE fire that broke out at an oil depot gutted the outskirts of Jaipur on Thursday evening. The inferno spread over 3 km, leaving at least 12 people dead and another 150 injured -- some with 100 per cent burns.

The Army was called in, along with experts from Mumbai, to contain the fire, which started when an oil tanker went ablaze at the depot in the Sitapura industrial area. The district administration disconnected electricity and evacuated nearby areas to limit the damage.

All 29 fire brigades and 30 ambulances in Jaipur city were rushed to the spot, but they struggled to get to the victims through the intense blaze. The injured were taken to Sawai Man Singh General Hospital and Medical College and Mahatma Gandhi Hospital even as all city hospitals were put on red alert.

The Indian Oil Corporation depot is located on the Jaipur- Kota Highway, around 10 km from Sanganer airport. After the first tanker stationed there went ablaze around 7 pm, the fire spread to five more tankers, which exploded one after another.

Sources said there were a total of 10 oil tankers at the depot, along with a huge reservoir of oil in the basement.

The fire was believed to have enveloped about a dozen adjoining industrial units, while the blasts hit a number of shops in nearby markets.

The explosions could be heard up to a radius of 30 km.

Residents said they initially sounded like an earthquake or serial bomb blasts. It was only when they rushed into the streets that they saw the fire.

The state administration scampered for help from all around. The Army was asked to lead the operations to contain the fire, chief minister Ashok Gehlot said. Two teams of firefighting experts from Mumbai were also called in.

Gehlot spoke to Union petroleum minister Murli Deora for his support in dealing with the crisis.

Fire brigades deployed at the Sanganer airport and adjoining cities, including Kota, were asked to reach the spot.

The nearby Nasirabad army cantonment was also alerted to rush its fire brigades as they were equipped with foam sprayers. Army spokesperson Col N. N. Joshi said some 150 firefighting personnel and Army doctors had been sent to Jaipur.

The district administration ordered the evacuation of Bilva and other nearby villages and hamlets. Residents in and around the Sitapura industrial area and Pratapnagar residential areas were asked to shift to safe places, while boarders at nearby colleges were told to leave their hostels.

Authorities also cut off the electricity supply to the Sitapura industrial area, the Pratapnagar residential area and adjoining localities.

But chief fireman Ishwar Lal said the city's fire brigdes were unable to go anywhere near the blaze due to its intensity.

Firefighting operations remained ineffective as water was of no use, and foam sprayers were not immediately available. " Our attempt is to contain the fire and protect the adjoining industrial units," Lal said.

Because of the blaze, the traffic on the Jaipur- Kota Highway was blocked up to a distance of 30 km from the depot.

The containment of fire was urgent as an oil pipeline and an LPG depot of Hindustan Petroleum are also located nearby. The damage could be far worse if the blaze reached there.

Firefighting operations were on until late on Thursday night.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Oct 30, 2009
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