Situation Update No. 5
On 26.10.2009 at 04:15 GMT+2
Firefighters made progress in containing a raging fire at an oil storage depot in Puerto Rico yesterday, but shifting winds threatened to bring the toxic smoke closer to populated areas. Authorities said air quality remained well below toxicity levels that would prompt more evacuations. An explosion triggered the blaze at the Caribbean Petroleum Corporation's storage depot that spewed a column of black smoke into the sky near the capital San Juan on Friday. Authorities in the US territory evacuated more than 1000 residents. The fire has destroyed 18 of the storage facility's 40 tanks.
Situation Update No. 4
On 25.10.2009 at 04:32 GMT+2
Firefighters made progress in containing a raging fire at an oil storage depot in Puerto Rico, but shifting winds threatened to bring the toxic smoke closer to populated areas, officials warned on Saturday. However, authorities said air quality remained good, well below toxicity levels that would prompt more evacuations. "Right now, there is not any reason to evacuate anyone else," the Caribbean island's Governor Luis Fortuno said. An explosion triggered the blaze at the Caribbean Petroleum Corp.'s storage depot that spewed a column of black smoke into the sky near the capital San Juan on Friday. Authorities in the U.S. territory evacuated more than 1,000 residents on Friday from areas near the fire, and 530 people spent the night in shelters the government set up in public facilities. President Barack Obama declared an emergency in Puerto Rico, mobilizing federal disaster relief resources for the area affected by the fire, the White House said. The fire has destroyed 18 of the storage facility's 40 tanks. The governor said only five tanks were still fully ablaze on Saturday, while four had collapsed in the flames and others appeared to have burned out but were still smoldering.
"The fire is contained. We don't expect it to spread from there," said Fire Chief Pedro Vazquez. Firefighters focused on chilling the unaffected tanks and containing the flames. There were 130 firefighters battling the blaze with the support of 30 fire trucks and other equipment. The National Weather Service issued a bulletin on Saturday warning residents in six towns west of San Juan that winds were turning more easterly, which was pushing the toxic smoke plume their way. Rain was another concern, and the weather service urged residents in the towns to remain indoors. The smoke, which loomed thousands of feet above the fire in a tight cone throughout Friday, was hovering much closer to the ground Saturday and was also more dispersed than previously. The Environmental Quality Board monitoring the air in communities closest to the blaze -- Toa Baja, Catano and Bayamon -- had yet to show any significant worsening in air quality, so no more evacuations were foreseen. The National Guard took over the lead coordinating role in managing the disaster on Saturday, as additional heavy equipment from the National Guard and island pharmaceutical firms was brought in to battle the blaze.
Authorities erected a temporary pipeline from San Juan Bay to supply seawater to fight the fire. Foam used in putting out oil fires was shipped from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Officials were concerned over contamination and dug a makeshift pool on the scene to collect the water used to extinguish the blaze. "Nobody is prepared for a fire like this. I'm calling on the 4 million Puerto Ricans to thank God tomorrow because this could have been much worse than it was," the governor said. Company officials said they did not know what started the fire, while a spokeswoman said its operations had complied with all local and federal regulations.
Situation Update No. 3
On 24.10.2009 at 15:35 GMT+2
he fuel storage explosion that took place in San Juan, Puerto Rico has created a panic among people living in that area. As stated by the official sources, the ground upheaval that was raised by this explosion were almost equal to earthquake shocks that has 2.8 magnitude. Several oil tanks had caught fire and many parts of the city was caught in the blaze. As stated by the sources, an oil refinery of the region had caught fire, making the governor of Puerto Rico declare emergency in the city. Emergency was declared also in four towns close to San Juan. Almost 1500 people who lived in the region were moved to different places for safety. Sources stated that authorities had moved some prisoners from the region. It was reported by the sources that airlines had to change their route for the dense smoke created by the explosion. The extent of damage and the cause of the explosion is not yet reported to the media. It has only been stated that two men had suffered injury in the base camp of army. However, there was no loss of life. The state authorities had taken several measures to check the spreading of fire. It has been reported that approximately one hundred and thirty fire fighters had come to control the fire. National Guard were also called for controlling the flames. Government has taken necessary actions to check fire and destruction caused by it. People of the region were requested to remain calm and co-operate with the government in their work.
Situation Update No. 2
On 24.10.2009 at 04:20 GMT+2
Authorities in Puerto Rico on Friday ordered the evacuation of hundreds more residents from homes around a huge fire at an oil depot which spewed a column of toxic black smoke into the sky near the capital San Juan. Some 130 firefighters, backed by National Guard troops, were still trying to put out the massive fire, hours after an early morning explosion triggered the blaze at the Caribbean Petroleum Corp. storage facility at Bayamon. After initially destroying 11 tanks at the 40-tank site, the fire spread to at least six more, containing products such as jet fuel, bunker fuel and gasoline. It was one of the largest fires ever in the US Caribbean island territory. "There are 17 tanks ablaze, and the firefighters are cooling the rest to avoid their explosion," Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuno said. He declared a state of emergency in San Juan and four surrounding towns. As flames licked up to a height of 100 feet (30 meters) over the oil facility, pushing a mushrooming black plume of smoke into the air, Fortuno announced the mandatory evacuation of the Sabana Amelia neighborhood, where around 1,000 to 1,500 people lived. The neighborhood is in the same Catano district from where around 350 people were evacuated earlier. Despite the size of the blaze, no deaths have been reported, but at least two people were slightly hurt. Schools in the San Juan metropolitan area were closed during the day. Winds from the south were pushing the huge column of black smoke from the fire out over the Atlantic, away from the population centers, but officials from the National Weather Service were watching for any wind changes that could threaten neighborhoods and require more evacuations. Governor Fortuno asked residents to stay calm and remain indoors. Officials said they were also watching out for rain, which could mix with the smoke to create toxic rain. Although officials said the incident was initially being treated as an accident, FBI agents were assisting the authorities in investigating the cause of the explosion. The US Chemical Safety Board said it was also deploying a six-person team to San Juan to help with the inquiry.
Fortuno said security had been protectively stepped up at the island's other oil facilities in the south coast town of Guayanilla and at Yabucoa on the east coast. Puerto Rican authorities temporarily froze prices of gasoline and other oil products to prevent price gouging, but ruled out any risk of serious fuel shortages. The early morning explosion which caused the fire rocked the surrounding area, shattering windows in some buildings. "The heat was incredible. It was an inferno," said firefighter Juan Cruz, one of the first on the scene. Housewife Tamara Rivera, 37, said she was awakened by a loud explosion in her Puerto Nuevo neighborhood. "I thought it was an earthquake, but when I went outside, I saw the big orange glow. It looked like daylight over there," she said. Following the blast and fire, the US Coast Guard established a safety zone in the part of San Juan Bay closest to the fire location. No vessels were permitted to enter this zone without prior permission from the Captain of the Port. But the terminal where tourist cruise lines dock in Old San Juan was not affected, a Coast Guard spokesman said. The Caribbean Petroleum Corp (CPC) facility also included a 48,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery, but this was not in operation, according to the CPC website. There were no immediate details on the extent of damage from the fire. CPC has under contract more than 200 service stations in Puerto Rico to market Gulf brand gasoline and diesel. Residents jammed gasoline stations, fearing a fuel shortage, but Fortuno said the island had enough supplies.
Situation Update No. 1
On 23.10.2009 at 10:22 GMT+2
An explosion at a Gulf gasoline facility Friday rocked a neighborhood outside Puerto Rico's capital, causing minor injuries and forcing evacuations as firefighters raced to prevent additional blasts. Several columns of black smoke and flames were rising from the Caribbean Petroleum Corp., a gasoline warehouse and distribution center on San Juan's bay that owns the Gulf brand in this U.S. Caribbean territory. FBI agents on the scene were among those investigating what caused the blast, which struck around 12:30 a.m. (0430 GMT), according to police chief Jose Figueroa Sancha. A police helicopter that flew over the area confirmed that 11 of more than 30 tanks had exploded, Figueroa Sancha said. Firefighters were planning to chill the remaining tanks in an effort to keep them from exploding. Dozens of fuel trucks were also being moved from the area. "This is about containment," firefighter Brenda Rodriguez said.
The fuel company told authorities that all of its employees who were at the plant are safe, Rodriguez said. Some people who were driving through the area were injured when the explosion shattered their car windows. One of them, truck driver Alredro Nevares, had cuts on his face from a broken windshield, according to his son Luis. Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said the agency put a temporary flight restriction in place over the area because of smoke. The flames, which could be seen from miles away, intensified several hours after the explosion and Figueroa Sancha said it would likely take several days to put out the fire. Authorities were evacuating people from communities downwind from the thick smoke. About 80 people living in a secure facility for Justice Department witnesses were also moved elsewhere, according to attorney general Antonio Sagardia. Police cars were clearing the way for ambulances and fire trucks arriving on the scene in Catano, across the bay from San Juan, where the blast tore up a highway. Gov. Luis Fortuno urged islanders to stay away from the site to keep the access clear and nearby schools announced they would be closed Friday. Environmental authorities urged nearby residents to keep their windows shut to avoid potentially dangerous smoke.http://hisz.rsoe.hu/alertmap/woalert_read.php?glide=EX-20091023-23585-PRI&cat=dis&lang=eng