CM writes to PM over preventive measures

Hazira oil depot fire Questions delay in implementation of expert panel's recommendations.

Days after a fire at an Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) depot killed three persons in Hazira, Chief Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday shot off a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh questioning the delay in implementation of the recommendations of an expert panel to deal with such incidents.

"The latest incident at Hazira poses a serious question mark on the ability of the central government to take effective and timely steps to prevent recurrence of such incidents," a Gujarat government statement quoted Modi as saying in the letter.

He voiced concern over lack of information on the status of the implementation of 118 recommendations made by the M B Lal Committee set up after the fire at the IOC terminal at Jaipur in 2009.

"Poor implementation records and recurrence of such incidents further weakens the faith of the people in the government's ability to provide safety and security to the citizens," Modi said.

The Hazira plant fire incident on January 5 has not only caused huge financial loss and disruption of oil supply but also led to the loss of three precious human lives and widespread panic in the nearby areas, the statement said.

"We cannot afford to have another such incident as it impacts our energy security and questions our ability to manage such sensitive installations," he said.

Modi asked the prime minister to fix responsibility within a reasonable time frame for implementation of the Lal Committee recommendations, in case they have not been implemented in entirety.

The CM said safety of oil depots and terminals was of paramount importance to ensure energy security and such recurrence of fire cannot be accepted.

Three IOC officials suspended

Three Indian Oil Corporation officials were suspended on Tuesday in connection with the January 5 fire incident at its Hazira terminal near Surat. A high-level team of IOC officials from Mumbai and Delhi also visited the site for further investigations today.

The officials will stay here for a few days and prepare a report which will be submitted to the higher authorities by January 20, sources said.

Among the suspended officials are a senior terminal manager, an assistant manager and an engineering officer. All were posted at the Hazira plant.

All the operations at the Hazira terminal have been suspended until further orders. Supply line of petrol, diesel and kerosene have been connected to IOC terminals in Vadodara and Sabarmati in Ahmedabad, said IOC Executive Director Srikumar N.

The police are still clueless about the missing person who had been reportedly working near tank Number 4 when the fire broke out. They started an inquiry into the deaths of three workers identified as Jalandher Chaudhary (35), resident of Rohtak in Bihar, Rahul Nagar (20), resident of Jaunpur in UP and Devendra Rajaram Giri (34), of Vadodara.

Ichhapore police officials visited the IOC office today.

Assistant Commissioner of Police (G division) R A Munshi said, "We have started investigations into the incident and are trying to find out the cause of the fire and how many people were there on the tank. We are questioning officials and it is difficult for us to say anything at this moment."

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