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The company put no effort to fight the fire, says District Fire Officer
Tending to fire in the first minutes is the most crucial aspect of fire fighting in any accident, be it at an industry or at home. And that precisely was lacking at the fire accident that occurred on Tuesday night at the bio-diesel manufacturing facility of Biomax Fuels Limited, located at the Visakhapatnam SEZ in Duvvada.
The first call to reach the fire office was at 7.35 p.m. and the first batch of fire engines reached the spot at about 8.10 p.m. It took about 40 minutes for the first set of fire engines to reach the spot, and by that time the fire that started at one storage tank spread to all the 12 tanks, and there was very little that we could do apart from seeing that the fire did not spread to the entire facility. The initial crucial time was lost, as the company put no effort to attend to the fire, according to District Fire Officer J. Mohana Rao.
“It appears that the plant has no proper captive fire control system. We did not notice any suitable hydrant system. There was no drenching system that can be activated automatically in the event of any fire, cobra monitoring system or sprinklers,” said Chief Fire Officer of Visakhapatnam Port Trust Kumar Raju.
City Commissioner of Police Amit Garg was highly critical of the response from the factory’s side. Mr. Garg, who was present at the site overnight, supervising the operation, informed The Hindu that the entire fire-fighting system ‘if any was at all present’ failed, and that was the reason why the fire spread so rapidly.
District Collector N. Yuvaraj, who was also present at the site, said that the in-built safety measures have to be reviewed once the fire dies down. “They may not be in compliance with the modern system, if any thing was installed,” he said.
However, the company’s officials denied that there was no fire-fighting system. But they agreed that it did not function during the emergency.
Speaking to The Hindu , Assistant General Manager (operations) T. Srinivasa Rao said: “We have a hydrant system but it did not function, and all the workers left the premises in fear and there was none who could attend to it.”
Though fortunately there was no casualty or injuries to anybody in the accident, the fire fighting was a massive operation and the fire was not doused fully even after 24 hours.
In total, about 40 fire engines and over 150 men from the fire department, Navy and CISF, were seen fighting the flames. While 20 fire engines were from the Fire Department, the other 20 were requisitioned from various organisations such as VPT, NTPC, VSP and Eastern Naval Command. A couple of engines with chemical foam were also brought in from the chemical factories located in Srikakulam.
Fire tender missing
Hyderabad-based Biomax Fuels has a manufacturing capacity of 5 lakh tonnes of bio-diesel per annum from multi-feed stock. What surprised the fire fighters was the absence of a fire tender and a regular fire-fighting team on the premises.
The fire occurred in the storage tanks of raw material where Palm Fatty Acid Distillate (PFAD) is stored. All the 12 storage tanks were gutted and luckily the fire did not spread to the six finished product tanks of 6,700 MT each, and to the four methane tanks of 400 MT each. “It would have been a disaster then,” said Mr. Mohana Rao.
During the entire operation, the fire fighters concentrated on stopping the fire from spreading to the other areas. As per the initial assessment, the fire would have occurred due to short-circuit in one of the pumps attached to the tanks. About 27,000 MT of PAFD was destroyed and the initial loss is said to be over Rs. 150 crore. Home Minister N. Chinarajappa also visited the plant and asked for a safety audit to be done.
From: The Hindu