Fire at Indian Oil depot in Jaipur still on, 12 dead, 150 injured and several people missing

Jaipur fire may continue to rage for some times before it can be doused. With twelve people already dead and several others to be recounted, it is one of the worst incidents in any Indian Oil Corporation depots.


Besides the twelve people killed, there are fear that many people may be trapped inside the burning depot where rescuers have not been able to reach so far. There are fears that the raging fire may engulf more areas nearby.


People have been evacuating their residences in nearby areas fearing that the fire may spread further and their lives may be in danger. Meanwhile Indian oil shares nose-dived following the oil depot incident.


Indian Oil Corporation is an Indian public-sector petroleum company. It is India's largest commercial enterprise, ranking 105th on the Fortune Global 500 listing (2009). It began operation in 1959 as Indian Oil Company Ltd. The Indian Oil Corporation was formed in 1964, with the merger of Indian Refineries Ltd.


Indian Oil and its subsidiaries account for a 47% share in the petroleum products market, 40% share in refining capacity and 67% downstream sector pipelines capacity in India. The Indian Oil Group of Companies owns and operates 10 of India's 19 refineries with a combined refining capacity of 60.2 million metric tons per year. The fire at the Indian Oil depot here continued to rage Friday morning, a day after it broke out, with six people still trapped and officials saying nine people could have been killed and nearly 150 injured.


The blaze, which broke out at 7.15 p.m. following a minor earthquake, has engulfed the nearby Agro food centre and a power grid. The fire, at the Sitapur industrial area near Jaipur, was of great intensity and the flames could be seen from a distance of over 15 km.


Oil and Petroleum Minister Murli Deora visited the injured at the government-run Sawai Man Singh Hospital here and said it would be another day or two before the blaze could be brought under control.Deora added that six workers of the Indian Oil depot were still trapped and that their chances of survival were bleak. "There is no option but to let the fuel burn. It will take a day or two before the fire could be brought under control," Deora told reporters here.


The depot had 7,000 kilo litres of petrol, 24,000 kilo litres of diesel and 1,000 kilo litres of kerosene. Two truckloads of foam have been brought from a Mathura refinery to extinguish the fire. However, according to officials it could only be put to use when the fuel burns itself.


The district collector has prohibited the entry of anybody within a five kilometre radius of the area under fire. The Jaipur-Kota highway has been closed down for vehicles and about 20 trains scheduled to pass through the nearby railway line have been affected. Nearby villages have also been vacated. Though the cause of the fire was not known, eyewitnesses said the fire broke out after gas leaked from one of the tanks. The Indian Oil depot has 11 huge tanks, and reports said that all of them caught fire.


A factory near the Indian Oil depot has been burnt to cinders, an official said. People living in nearby areas heard loud explosions when the fire broke out. Many have reported breathing problems and itching in the eyes. I have been facing breathing problems since last night," said Ramesh Kumar. Doctors here have advised people not to go near the fire site as it could lead to health problems.


The Rajasthan government has announced Rs.200,000 as compensation to the next of the kin of those who were killed in the fire and Rs.100,000 to the seriously injured. Rs.50,000 will be given to those who suffered "normal" injuries. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said all private hospitals have been asked to treat the injured and that the government would pay for their treatment.


(with IANS input) / 2009 October 30