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Fire lesson: Oil depots to shift

Oct. 31: The Rajasthan government today decided to relocate all oil depots at least 35km away from thickly populated areas, as the Jaipur fire raged on 48 hours after Thursday evening’s fuel tanker blasts.

The official death toll rose to eight with the recovery of three bodies from the Indian Oil depot premises, where six employees had been trapped and are feared dead.

The gases produced in the blaze, which has burnt about one crore litres of fuel and is expected to last another 10-12 hours, might later cause lung, eye and skin ailments in Jaipur, doctors have warned.

Officials said chief minister Ashok Gehlot himself took the decision to shift the oil depots. At least three depots of Indian Oil, Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum are now located in the Sitapura industrial area, where the fire and blasts have damaged offices and factories, causing an estimated loss of at least Rs 600-700 crore.

Sitapura is also home to an LPG bottling plant. There’s an LPG plant in another industrial area, the Viswakarma hub, in Jaipur.

Environmentalists said the fire would have produced 100 crore litres of nitrogen and sulphur gases, which could result in acid rain over a stretch of 40km during the winter and might cause widespread destruction of trees and other vegetation. The carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide gases produced are polluting the environment and pose a danger to the health of residents, especially children.

Paediatrician Priya said carbon monoxide can assimilate with blood, clog the alveoli (air sacs) in the lungs, and reduce blood capillaries’ capacity to transfer oxygen. All this can result in a drop in oxygen supply to the body’s cells. The smoke can also affect the eyes and cause skin disorders.

Superintendent of police (east) Biju G. Joseph said the petrol tankers at the Indian Oil depot had exhausted their fuel and only the diesel and kerosene tankers were now burning. Gigantic tongues of flame continued to leap from the depot this evening and the sky remained darkened with smoke.

Two of the three bodies found today are so badly burnt that DNA tests are being done to determine the victims’ identities, doctors said at the Sawai Man Singh Hospital.

Union petroleum minister Murli Deora has called a meeting of experts next Tuesday to review safety measures at the country’s oil installations. Experts from the public and private sectors will attend the meeting, officials said.

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