Saturday April 29, 2006

Lightning strikes depot

JOHOR BARU: Lightning struck and caused a massive inferno at the Johor Port in Pasir Gudang that could be seen 10km away and from across the straits in Singapore. 

The bolt came during an evening thunderstorm, striking a tank that held nearly 90,000 litres of petrol. 

When the sparks flew, two bigger tanks – with a total capacity of about 700,000 litres – also went up in flames. 

All the tanks were situated at the Petronas Dagangan Bhd fuel depot, with two tanks holding petrol meant for Petronas service stations in the southern region while the other stored jet fuel to be supplied to the Sultan Ismail International Airport at Senai. 

The petroleum storage tanks which caught fire after lightning struck.
No casualties were reported in the 6.20pm incident but by midnight the first tank was completely razed and more than 100 firefighters were attempting to stop the blaze from spreading to a fourth tank. 

This was the latest in a series of lightning strikes across the nation this month that had destroyed property and claimed lives. Two earlier incidents also occurred in Johor. 

On April 8, two anglers were struck by lightning as they were fishing from a fishing platform in the waters off Tanjung Langsat. 

Three days later in Pontian, a 29-year-old Indonesian worker, working on a fishing platform, was struck dead by lightning. 

Firemen spraying water on one of the three fuel storage tanks that were on fire.
In Penang, a fisherman was killed on April 15 while his friend escaped unhurt when they were struck by lightning about two nautical miles off the Kuala Sungai Pinang coast in Balik Pulau. 

On April 25, a motorcyclist was killed on the spot when he was truck by lightning near Taman Mantau Jaya in Seremban. 

The next day, a thunderstorm wreaked havoc in the Klang Valley, causing flash floods and bolts of lightning that killed a construction site worker in front of the Amcorp Mall in Petaling Jaya and sparked a fire at a bungalow in Jalan Semantan, Kuala Lumpur. 

In yesterday’s port fire, the lightning first struck at Tank No. 14 in the Petronas depot, and then spread to Tank No. 15, about 10m away, which held more than 450,000 litres of petrol. 

Residents living near the depot being evacuated from the area as the flames got bigger.
The fire then spread to Tank No. 16, about 2m away, which held 250,000 litres of jet fuel. 

By midnight Tank No. 14 had collapsed and firemen were trying to prevent the flames from spreading to storage Tank No. 7, which held more than three million litres of fuel. 

The Petronas depot housed at least 15 tanks of various sizes and holding different types of fuel, including petrol, jet fuel and palm oil. 

The nearest housing estate, Taman Mawar, is 2km away and curious onlookers came out of their homes to watch the red skies that loomed above Pasir Gudang. 

Curious on-lookers watching the flames from afar.
The tanks, it is learnt, have heat protectors but no lightning protectors. 

When the fuel storage tanks went up in flames, at least three explosions rocked the port area. 

Reporters standing about 1km away heard a loud explosion at about 11.15pm but no immediate information on its source could be obtained then. 

Petronas Dagangan issued a statement later to say that the Fire and Rescue Department and the authorities had secured the perimeters of the depot for safety reasons. 

Petronas Dagangan assured its customers that supply to the service stations and its other customers would not be disrupted as the company has made arrangements for the products to be sourced from other depots. 

Besides the firemen from the port, Johor Baru and nearby Permas, there were also volunteer firefighters from nearby factories.  

Most of the port workers rushed out when the emergency sirens went off.  

Fuel tank fire put out 


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