On Tuesday afternoon, panic spread as videos captured from the surrounding areas of the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) plant in Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam showed plumes of smoke emanating from inside the plant. A fire incident was reported in one of the crude processing units of the refinery. Immediately fire tenders were rushed in. Operations in the other parts of the refinery however continued.
A loud sound was reportedly heard when the blast took place, following which the warning sirens in the refinery were sounded to alert the employees and evacuate the plant. "There was a deafening sound like a blast and there was a ball of fire. The siren sounded and we all came running out to safety," a worker said, coming out of the plant. Panic gripped the area as news of the blast spread. In videos that surfaced following the incident, locals were seen gathering in large numbers outside the plant curious to know what had transpired.
Speaking to the media, Vizag Commissioner of Police Manish Kumar Sinha said, “The fire is now under control, it has been completely extinguished. Four fire tenders from within (HPCL) were pressed into action, and four fire tenders were also called in from outside to control the fire. It started around 3.10 pm and was brought in control by around 4.10 pm to 4.15 pm. There were no casualties. Four people who were working around that area managed to escape and haven't been hurt.”
Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited put out an update from its official Twitter handle, confirming that there were no casualties in the accident, once the fire was brought under control.
In 2013, two persons died and 37 people were injured due to an explosion at the HPCL plant. The fire was reportedly due to a short circuit that resulted in the blasting of a cooling tower.
In April of 2019 another fire accident resulted in three plant workers sustaining burn injuries. The fire has broken out in the Continuous Catalytic Reformer (CCR) unit in the MS block at HPCL, reported Times of India.
HPCL runs a 8.3 million tonnes a year oil refinery at Visakhapatnam. The unit turns crude oil into value added fuels like petrol and diesel.
Besides teams from HPCL, personnel from the Eastern Naval Command and the AP State Disaster Response and Fire Services Department swung into action and put out the blaze in a swift operation.
(With agency inputs)