Fuel tanker catches fire; disaster management efforts questionable

 Firemen attempt to douse the flames after a fuel tanker stationed at a fuel station  at Nongrim Hills in the city caught fire on Friday. (ST)
Firemen attempt to douse the flames after a fuel tanker stationed at a fuel station
at Nongrim Hills in the city caught fire on Friday. (ST)

SHILLONG: It took nearly four hours for the fire that broke out at a petrol pump in Nongrim Hills on Friday to be brought under control leading to nightmarish traffic snarls on city roads.
Residents of Nongrim Hills watched in dismay as a major disaster struck on Friday evening after a fuel tanker carrying 18,000 litres of fuel caught fire while it was stationed at a petrol pump located here. Those living near the petrol pump vacated their homes out of fear that the fire would spread, especially since it was a windy evening.
The incident took place around 4pm. Though the exact cause of the fire is not known    preliminary investigation indicates that the tanker caught fire while it was dispensing fuel into the reservoir of the petrol pump.
A police official on the spot said a two-wheeler was gutted in the incident when the fire suddenly started. Police are still trying to gather details of the incident from the manager of the petrol pump.
Scores of fire tenders from different sources were rushed to the spot to douse the fire. Later, assistance was also sought from the Indian Air Force (IAF) to control the raging fire made worse by the fact that the fire tenders used water to put off the flames caused by petrol.
Water, which is heavier than petrol, slips down permitting the petrol to rise to the surface and continue to burn. Besides, the existing temperature is so high that the water poured on the fire evaporates even before it can extinguish the fire.
The situation was brought under control four hours after the fire started.
Police personnel were strictly supervising the area and the top brass of the government machinery were deputed to the spot.
The police personnel also sanitised the entire neighbourhood even while residents of the area were seen evacuating their homes.
It may be mentioned that the petrol pump is located in a residential area and The Shillong Times had done a story last year to caution the authorities against probable disasters, especially since a warehouse for paints is located behind the petrol pump. Paint is also a highly inflammable material. A few metres away is the residence of local MLA Jemino Mawthoh.
These risks posed to the residents of the area were also brought to the attention of the then Deputy Commissioner, Sanjay Goyal, vide a memorandum addressed to him but that was not taken cognisance of.
A prominent resident of the locality wondered how the Dorbar Shnong of Nongrim Hills could grant permission for locating a hazardous industry inside a heavily populated area.
This brings to the fore questions about the disaster preparedness of the district administration. Residents said disaster must be prevented by not permitting flammable industries in a residential area and that the government does not bother about their safety.

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