Fires and explosions

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 1 July 2004



(2004), "Fires and explosions", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 13 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Fires and explosions

Fires and explosions

27 December 2003 – Coal Mine, Wu’an City, China

A fire raced through coal mine in northern China, killing 26 miners, the official Xinhua News Agency reported today. The fire broke out at about 08.00 yesterday in the mine in Wu’an, a city in Hebei province, Xinhua said. Investigators found that cables in mine caught fire, igniting a larger blaze, Xinhua said. A total of 36 miners were in the mine, but ten escaped, the report said. It said rescue workers found 26 bodies.

30 December 2003 – Fireworks Plant, Shuangmiaozi, China

A powerful explosion at a fireworks plant in north-east China has killed at least 35 people and flattened buildings, state media said today. The semi-official China News Service said 35 bodies had been recovered and rescue work was still going on after this morning’s blast in the township of Shuangmiaozi in Liaoning province. The official Xinhua news agency said 29 workers were killed and 19 people were being treated in hospital. The blast flattened the company’s two workshops, tore apart the roof of the four-storey office building and Xinhua quoted witnesses as saying houses about 100 metres from the workshops were damaged by the resulting fire. Authorities were investigating, it said.

25 December 2003 – Gas Field, Chongqing, China

Toxic fumes from a burst gas well, following a devastating explosion at a natural gas field in China’s south-west, killed at least 190 people, the official Xinhua news agency said today. The well blew out Tuesday night (23 December) at a gas field in Kaixian County on the outskirts of the city of Chongqing, Xinhua said.

The report came a day after Xinhua had reported eight people dead in the blow-out at the Chuandongbei gas field, which it said had been brought under control by Wednesday afternoon. That report had said another 57 people were sickened. Xinhua didn’t say how or when the additional deaths occurred. The well blow-out at about 22.00, Tuesday, spewed natural gas and sulfurated hydrogen some 30 metres high, Xinhua said, citing Qian Zhijia, the field’s deputy director. Qian said the blow-out should be brought under control by late tomorrow, Xinhua said. The field is run by Sichuan Petroleum Administration, part of the China National Petroleum Corp., Xinhua said.

27 December 2003 Chinese emergency workers have sealed off a natural gas well, capping the source of a toxic gas cloud that killed nearly 200 people and poisoned thousands in south-western Chongqing municipality. A crew of 80 technicians began pouring hundreds of cubic metres of mud into the well, plugging a deadly flow of natural gas and sulphurated hydrogen that turned surrounding farmland into a death zone late on Tuesday (23 December). “The capping of the Chuandongbei well has been completed successfully”, the official Xinhua news agency said soon after the operation began. In separate reports, Xinhua said air pressure around the cap had begun to drop ten minutes after the capping procedure began. After the well was filled with mud, layers of cement would be added. At least 198 people, mostly villagers, and large numbers of livestock were killed after the blow-out, which spewed a poisonous gas cloud into the night sky. Xinhua said the toll had risen from the earlier reported 191 but gave no explanation. More than 40,000 people were evacuated from villages within a radius of five km from the remote site of the gas field, operated by state run China National Petroleum Corp, parent of listed oil major Petrochina. More than 9,000 people poisoned to varying degrees filled local hospitals. Rescue teams scoured surrounding villages, finding corpses strewn on roadsides. Others died as they slept. Rescue operations, delayed by a lack of protective equipment, ended this morning ahead of the capping operation. The successful capping of the 400-metre-deep gas well meant a recurrence of the blow-out was unlikely, Xinhua said. Dangerous substances lingering in the air would be cleared in an anti-chemical operation, the agency said. Once the environment had been declared hazard-free, local residents who had been evacuated were expected to be allowed to return home following an observation period, it said. An investigation into the cause of one of China’s deadliest disasters was continuing.

29 December 2004 The death toll from a natural gas well blowout in south-west China has climbed to 233 as rescue workers began cleaning up a vast “death zone”, the official Xinhua news agency said. State-run China National Petroleum Corp, which operates the gas field and parent of listed oil major Petrochina, will pay compensation to villagers, state television quoted company vice president Su Shulin as saying.

5 January 2004 The death toll from a gas-drilling accident that spewed toxic fumes over villages in south western China has risen to 243 today. An additional 396 people are still being treated following the 23 December disaster north east of the city of Chongqing. The official Xinhua News Agency said 27 of those were in a critical condition. The government has blamed negligence among gas-drilling workers for the accident in which a well blew out and spewed a toxic mix of natural gas and hydrogen sulphide over the mountainous area. The well was sealed on 27 December. More than 9,000 people were treated for injuries and more than 60,000 evacuated from the area. Xinhua did not say how the latest deaths occurred, but many of those injured reported suffered gas poisoning and skin burns from exposure to the fumes.

23 January 2004 – Marriage Hall, Srirangam, India

At least 45 persons were charred to death, including the bridegroom, and 50 others were injured, in a major blaze at a marriage hall at Srirangam today. The fire broke out due to short circuit in the serial light wiring which was put up on the thatched roof of the hall on the first floor, police and fire department sources said. Soon the hall, situated on the busy EVS Street at Rangarajapuram in the temple of Srirangam, was engulfed by flames, they said. Earlier reports had said the fire broke out due to burning of camphor. Police said many deaths were due to stampede as people who had gathered for the “muhartham”, between 09.30 and 10.30, ran in panic to get out of the hall. The injured persons were rushed to Srirangam and Tiruchirapalli government hospitals. The bride was saved by one of her relatives, they said. The first floor and windows on the ground floor of the hall were completely destroyed in the fire.

27 January 2004 – Premises, Cairo, Egypt

A 12-storey building that had drawn police attention for alleged illegal renovations collapsed in a Cairo suburb during a fire yesterday night, killing at least five people, including three fire-fighters. At least ten people remained trapped in the rubble. Rescue crews worked into today trying to free those trapped in the building, police said. Most were police officers and fire-fighters who had been dispatched to put out the blaze, police said. The bodies of three fire-fighters and a private citizen were removed from the rubble, according to Egypt’s semi-official Middle East News Agency. Eleven people remained trapped, it reported this morning. Thirty three people were hospitalized, but there was no immediate word on their conditions. The owner of the building had illegally added four floors 12 years ago and ignored an order to tear them down, police said. Tenants had also complained to police six days ago about renovations in the store where the fire began; they feared the work would damage the building’s foundations. The officials first said the fire broke out at an Egyptian fast-food restaurant on the ground floor, but later reported it began at the adjacent store. The building, built in 1981, was in Nasr City, an eastern suburb of the Egyptian capital near the airport. The area is home to many high-rise residential buildings and shopping areas. The structure collapsed accordion-style into a pile of rubble about two stories high. Police sealed off the area and evacuated two buildings that were damaged by the collapse, while fire-fighters and policemen worked under floodlights to rescue their trapped colleagues.

28 January 2004 Rescue teams have given up searching for survivors trapped under the rubble of a Cairo high-rise building that collapsed in flames killing 15 people, mostly rescue workers, and injuring 45, officials said today. An Interior Ministry official said a fire in the building caused cooking gas canisters to explode at a restaurant on the ground floor of the 11-storey apartment block, sending the building crashing down on top of rescue workers yesterday. “There were actually a number of gas explosions caused by the fire... Unfortunately the heat from the fire caused the explosions, which made the building collapse”, said the official. Officials said the bodies of 15 people had been pulled from the debris, and all signs indicated there were no more survivors or bodies under the rubble of the building, on a main street in the commercial and residential Cairo suburb of Nasr City. Health Ministry officials said about ten injured people were still in hospital but their lives were not in danger. Health Ministry officials said a total of 45 people had been injured. Cairo Governor Abdel Raheem Shehata told Egypt’s official Middle East News Agency an order for the two-decade-old building’s demolition had been issued in 1992. Planning permission had only been granted for four of its levels. A further seven had been added illegally, he said. The Interior Ministry said the fire began in a plastics storeroom beneath the building, but its cause was unknown and under investigation. Prime Minister Atef Obeid visited the site today and praised rescue workers who lost their lives. He said engineering experts would lead the investigation. Crowds earlier cheered when a man was pulled out alive from the rubble. Two others were later rescued, Cairo security director Nabil el-Azzaby said.

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