Fires and explosions

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 1 May 2000



(2000), "Fires and explosions", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 9 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Fires and explosions

Fires and explosions

6 January 1999 - Huan Province, China

Twenty-three people were killed and five injured in two coal mine explosions in China's central Huan province, the China Mining News said today. The gas explosions occurred just weeks apart in Huan's coal-rich county of Yiyang last month, the newspaper said. The first blast was on 21 December at a small unlicensed mine, killing 11 and seriously injuring five, according to the newspaper. The second blast tore through a nearby mine on 26 December, killing 12, the newspaper said. It did not say if the mine was licensed.

12 January 1999 - Quang Ninn Province, Vietnam

An explosion in a Vietnamese coal mine has killed 16 workers and seriously injured three others, a senior mine official said today. The official from Mao Khe coal mine in northern Quang Ninh province, 160km north-east of Hanoi, said the explosion occurred yesterday. He did not elaborate but said investigators were looking into possible causes for the blast. The official Communist party daily Nhan Dan (People) reported today that the explosion had been caused by methane gas and that the injured numbered eight rather than three.

24 January 1999 - Dongguan, China

A Hong Kong Press report, dated today, states: Fourteen people were killed in a fire at a factory in the southern city of Dongguan, local reports said today. The 14 were working on an overnight shift yesterday when the blaze broke out at the Dongju plastic factory, owned by the Taipei-based Zhishen Group, in Guangdong province, the Oriental Daily News reported. Toxic fumes from plastic raw materials stored at the factory, which produced computer mice, caused many workers to pass out. Four others escaped via the roof of the three-story building and were later rescued by firemen, the newspaper reported. The blaze swept through the plant, then to the high volume of inflammable plastic raw materials and firemen were still battling the flames early today, residents said. A Zhishen spokesperson said the cause of the fire was under investigation, and estimated the factory could resume production in about a week.

26 January 1999 - Hezhang County, China

A huge gas explosion in a coal mine in China's south-western province of Guizhou killed 35 people and seriously injured four, the Guizhou Daily said in a report seen today. Three people were missing and six people were slightly injured after the blast ripped through a Hezhang county mine on 16 January, the newspaper said. The head of the rectification office of China's coal industry visited the site later to ensure officials made a through investigation, it said.

8 March 1999 - Sinjdi, Mastung District, Pakistan

At least ten coal miners were killed late on Saturday night (6 March) in a mine blast in Sinjdi, Mastung district, 42km from Quetta, according to district authorities in Mastung. They said that the incident took place in a coal mine due to accumulation of explosive gas. They said that the dead miners belonged to Swat in NWFP. The bodies were recovered from the debris and had been despatched to their villages, they said. The affected mine has been sealed and Chief Inspector Mines Baluchistan has started investigation into the cause of the incident. The accident took place when the colliers were busy working in the 600ft deep mine. There were 14 miners working in the mine. However, four of them had come out while nine others were left in the mine when the gas caused a blast. The incident occurred in the mine of Haji Mir Qadir Bukhsh Coal Company. A coal mine workers' representative Sarzameen Afghani claimed that ten workers had died in the incident. Meanwhile, Governor and Chief Minister Baluchistan had expressed their sense of sorrow and grief over the fatal incident.8 March 1999 - A Press report, from Quetta, dated today, states: At least ten coal miners were killed in an explosion at a mine in Sinjdi, Mastung district, late Saturday night (6 March). District authorities in Mastung said the explosion occurred due to an accumulation of gas. They said the dead miners were from Swat, in NWFP. The bodies had been recovered from the debris and returned to their villages. The Mir Qadir Bukhsh Zahri Coal Company mine has been sealed and the Baluchistan Chief Inspector of Mines has begun an investigation into the cause of the incident.

15 March 1999 - New Delhi, India

Thousands of New Delhi slum dwellers were homeless today after a fire yesterday killed at least 28 people and razed more than 1,000 huts built with mud, brick, tin and wood. A fire brigade official said the fire, which raged through the slum district of the Indian capital yesterday, had killed 28 people. Anita Roy, a senior Delhi police official, put the death toll at 26, while witnesses said at least 35 had been killed and more than 100 were in hospital with burn injuries. Local residents initially said more than 100 people were missing in the blaze in the Vijay Ghat area near Yamuna Vihar, but had since been rescued. "It appears that nobody else is trapped", Roy said. Local news agencies said an inquiry had been ordered into the fire, which was brought under control by this morning. Burned plastic material, cloth and furniture covered more than a square km of the slum. Residents said many people rushed to a mosque in the middle of the slum area to try to escape, but that, too, was destroyed and those inside perished. "People ran into the mosque to take shelter as the fire spread to their huts but the mosque also caught fire, burning to death all those inside", said Sikander Khan, who lived in the slum.

24 March 1999 - Mont Blanc Tunnel, France

Four people including a fireman died in the Mont Blanc tunnel, linking France and Italy, after a food truck caught fire today, a French government official said. Four firemen were affected by fumes as they evacuated motorists and tunnel workers stranded in the tunnel a spokeswoman for the regional prefect said. Rescuers found three unidentified bodies not far from the blazing truck. The fire had started about halfway into the 11km tunnel. The driver of the Belgian-registered truck was unhurt.25 March 1999 - A blaze that killed four people in the Mont Blanc tunnel was still raging today, almost 24 hours after a food truck caught fire, rescuers said. The fire spread from the Belgian-registered truck to at least eight other lorries on the Italian side of the 11km long tunnel under western Europe's highest mountain. Fire-fighters worked through the night and managed to put out the fire in five trucks but thick smoke and intense heat stopped them reaching a 1.5km long stretch of the tunnel. A firefighter and three unidentified users of the tunnel died. Twenty-seven people were hurt, three of them seriously.25 March 1999 - A fire raging out of control in a tunnel under Mont Blanc has killed nine people including a firefighter, a French government official said today. The tunnel was closed after a food truck caught fire yesterday morning. The fire spread from the Belgian-registered truck to at least eight other lorries on the Italian side of the seven mile long tunnel. Some 24 people were injured on the French side of the tunnel, including firefighters and tunnel company employees, while there were ten casualties on the Italian side, officials from the prefect's (government representative) office said. Rescuers said intense heat in the tunnel caused paint on the trucks to blister and tyres to explode. Thick smoke badly hampered the rescue work. French Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot visited the scene of the blaze: "It is crucial to understand why this happened so that it won't happen again", he told reporters. Four firemen were slightly hurt by fumes as they evacuated motorists and tunnel workers stranded in the tunnel, a spokeswoman for the prefect's office said. The driver of the truck, which carried flour, wheat and margarine, was unhurt.29 March 1999 - A blaze in the Mont Blanc Tunnel which caused the deaths of at least four people last week could have been avoided, tunnel employee claims. An employee of Autoroutes et Tunnel du Mont Blanc has gone on record as saying that video cameras placed at the entrance of the 11.6km tunnel would have filmed smoke coming from the engine of the Belgian truck, which a few minutes later exploded, causing the tragedy. The ventilation system on the French side of the tunnel was now working properly, according to preliminary investigations. Some of the trucks involved in the fire were also reported to be carrying highly inflammable goods, which are strictly forbidden under Mont Blanc tunnel rules. The final death toll has not been established - only six bodies have so far been identified as victims were burned beyond recognition in temperatures which reached 1,000°C. The investigation into what is emerging as the worst tunnel tragedy in Europe will be undertaken by a special team from Lyon police force. French interior minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement said on Saturday 27 March that the tunnel's security cameras were not up to the challenge such a fire represented. The official inquiry will report on its findings on 31 May. The fire broke out in French territory, a few hundred metres from the Italian border. Gilbert Degrave, the Belgian driver of the truck that caught fire. said he believed the most likely cause was a fuel leakage. René Guicard, reputed to be one of the best fire experts in France, has been appointed as a consultant in investigating the tragedy. The Mont Blanc Tunnel is unlikely to reopen for months because of structural failures caused by the extreme temperatures. An Italian fire-fighter said: "It is not just a problem of the asphalt melting, a large part of the tunnel's structure must be checked and eventually rebuilt, not to mention the additional safety measures which may need to be put in place". A French fire department report last year warned that a sudden blaze in the Mont Blanc Tunnel could turn it into a death-trap. According to a report in the French newspaper Le Dauphine Libéré, the fire service found the smoke extraction system to be insufficient and warned rescue efforts would be hampered by blocked vehicles. The tunnel lacks a parallel gallery to allow fire-fighters easy access. Traffic has now been diverted towards the Fréjus Tunnel.27 March 1999 - Thirty people are a now believed to have died in the blaze in the Mont Blanc tunnel which started when a fire on board a lorry engulfed up to 30 vehicles. Rescue attempts by Italian and French fire-fighters have been hampered by the intense heat and fumes in the tunnel. The death toll, originally put at four people - including one firefighter - rose rapidly yesterday as rescuers finally gained greater access to the tunnel. Video cameras are installed in the 11km tunnel and there were emergency areas with fire extinguishers and telephones every 300m. Some of the rescuers, overcome by fumes, were saved by entering fire and smoke-proof shelters on the side of the gallery. According to a spokesman for the Prefecture of Anne¨cy, traffic congestion as a result of the fire has been controlled by diverting traffic to the Fre¨jus Tunnel to the south-west and through mountain passes near Mont Blanc. French transport minister Jean-Claude Gayssot said he expected the tunnel to be closed for several weeks. This could cause severe disruption to hauliers' itineraries. Drivers were expected to make a 150-mile detour to the Fre¨jus Tunnel, which, the UK Road Haulage Association said, is relatively small to handle the increased volume.28 March 1999 - French officials said today that the death toll had reached 40 in the fire in the Mont Blanc tunnel. Rescue workers from both countries were still sifting through the charred wreckage left at the centre of the 11km tunnel, the officials said. A total of 34 vehicles had now been identified as destroyed in the fire, they added. Only four of the dead have been identified to date because the fierce heat of the blaze, which took place deep in the Franco-Italian Alps, left the victims' bodies charred beyond recognition as well as their vehicles. Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement, in Chamonix yesterday for the funeral of fire-fighter Georges Tosello who died in the blaze, said an official inquiry would report its findings on 31 May.30 March 1999 - A press report from Chamonix, France, dated 29 March, states: Firefighters and police entered the Mont Blanc tunnel today, sifting through charred cars and trucks to try to identify the remains of dozens of victims. At least 40 people died in the blaze that broke out Wednesday, 24 March. Only five of them have been identified and rescue workers say the death toll in the blaze still could rise.

30 March 1999 - Hillsdale Area, Michigan, USA

A press report from Osseo, MI, dated today, states: A fireworks factory where seven workers died in a December explosion was hit by another blast and fire yesterday that killed five people. The explosion at the Independence Professional Fireworks Co., in the Hillsdale area, 80 miles south-west of Detroit, happened about 08.30 and destroyed a building just 100 yards from the structure that was wrecked in December.

6 April 1999 - Smanxi Province, China

Twenty-three people have died in the battle against a raging forest fire in the mountains of north China, the official Liberation Daily reported today. The Shanghai newspaper said more than 3,000 soldiers, police and civilians were fighting a fire which broke out on Saturday, 4 April, near the city of Fenyang, in Shanxi Province. The fire had already engulfed 133 hectares of trees. It was still burning late yesterday and threatened a nearby national forest reserve, the newspaper said. It did not say what caused the fire or how the fire-fighters died.

16 April 1999 - Nanying, China

Nineteen people, including five children, were killed by a fire in a Chinese furniture factory, the official Xinhua news agency reported today. Seven people were hurt in the fire yesterday at the private factory in Nanying, in the central province of Henan. The cause of the fire was not known. Four of the dead belonged to the family of Lu Shiyong, who ran the factory, Xinhua said.

13 May 1999 - Shaanxi, China

A huge gas explosion ripped through a coal mine in China's north-eastern province of Shaanxi, killing 41 people and injuring 12, the China Coal Daily reported today. It said the blast occurred on the morning of Monday, 10 May, while 96 workers from a construction firm were setting up the mine.

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