x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Depot with poor safety record burns

Charges are pending for oil company that has a history of safety lapses and had been fined.

This handout picture shows a fire at an oil depot in the Sajja area of Sharjah.
This handout picture shows a fire at an oil depot in the Sajja area of Sharjah.

SHARJAH// A huge fire yesterday destroyed the depot of an oil company with a history of safety lapses. The firm, which cannot be named due to pending charges, was storing at least 200 barrels of oil at the site in the Sajja industrial area. Police said the company was violating numerous safety rules and did not have basic safety requirements in place to control a fire. It had previously been fined for violating safety laws.

The fire came three months after police cut off electricity and water supplies to the depot. However, the company continued to operate. The blaze, the second at an oil company in less than a week, engulfed the depot after starting around 10am. Firemen battled for three hours to contain the flames, which leapt up to 30 metres in the air, as oil barrels exploded around them. Col Mohammed al Madhloom, the director of Sharjah Police operations room, said emergency services managed to contain the fire from spreading to other warehouses. "It was a huge fire because of the amount of oil that was stored in barrels," he said. "Owners have told us there were 200 barrels and all exploded, leaving flames exceeding 30 metres and a mass of smoke rising up to 3km."

He added that at first, firemen had trouble getting to the burning depot because many cars were parked in front of it. "The foremost task of the firefighters was then to first save these cars, we're glad no car was gutted, all were saved, there were about seven cars," he said. No injuries were reported. A spokesman for the company admitted they had previously been fined but claimed they had rectified safety concerns and by the time the fire broke out, the electricity and water supply had been reconnected.

On Saturday, fire crews from Sharjah and other emirates were stretched to the limit to control an inferno at the Emirates Refinery Company (Erco) that led to the closing of Port Khalid. The fire, which broke out in a cooking-oil storage depot in the early hours, caused an estimated Dh7 billion (US$1.9bn) damage. An investigation is under way but police said Erco had correct safety procedures in place.

Yesterday, First Lt Khaled al Suwaidi of the Sharjah Police patrol reiterated that companies dealing with flammable materials were required by law to adhere to strict safety standards. "Our concern is mostly with the big oil depots or warehouses. It's inconceivable they continue flaunting the rules." ykakande@thenational.ae