Jaipur: A massive fire at the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) depot near Jaipur has been raging on for almost 12 hours now. Five people have died and over 150 have been injured. Officials say the death toll could rise.
The explosion took place on Thursday at 7:30 pm at IOC petrol depot in Sitapura area on the outskirts of Jaipur city when petrol was being transported to a pipeline and the fire soon engulfed the entire depot, spreading over 5 kilometres.
A rescuer and eyewitness Shankar Singh said, "One of the oil tanks caught fire and then it spread rapidly. There were huge flames as high as 70 feet and the whole area of nearly 2-3 kilometres was engulfed in fire and flames."
Firefighting teams including special chemical fire tenders sprang into action to bring the blaze under control.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has spoken to Petroleum minister Murli Deora so that a team of experts can come together to control the fire as soon as possible.
Army personnel have also been deployed and are helping with the firefighting operation.
Meanwhile District officials declared the area a danger zone, rushing to evacuate nearly 5 lakh people including students from 10 neighbouring colleges and 10 villagers in the vicinity.
Petroleum Minister Murli Deora said, “I'll meet the CM in a short while. I have been touch with him since last night. People from Mathura refinery are here, we're trying to control the fire but it won't extinguish till the entire fuel burns out. I don't want to comment on the reason of how the fire broke out till an enquiry report comes out. An inquiry committee will be set up today.”
Over 20 ambulances are involved in ferrying the injured to nearby hospitals.
A victim at the site Mukil Ansari said, "We were working on the third floor when we heard a loud explosion and then something hit me on the head. We all ran downstairs and I felt pain in my head. When I put my hand on the head it was full of blood, there was a huge wound and blood was pouring out of my head."
The IOC depot contains nearly nine million litres of fuel products.
Authorities are still trying to ascertain what caused a catastrophe of this scale. Was it a stray firecracker that ignited the flames or was it a mild earthquake that occurred moments earlier that triggered the disaster.