Residents, police move against IOC, fires rage on (Night Lead)

November 4th, 2009 - 9:58 pm ICT by IANS  

By Anil Sharma
Jaipur, Nov 4 (IANS) Furious residents around the burning Indian Oil’s depot near here filed police complaints against the company as fires raged on Wednesday in two of its tanks after having killed 11 people.

With authorities predicting that the devastating seven-day-old fire was expected to die out Thursday, residents and businessmen in the area began to count their losses.

“We are hopeful that the fire in one tank will be extinguished by tonight and in the other tank by tomorrow morning,” Chief Fire Officer Ishwar Lal told IANS.

The blaze broke out Oct 29, killing 11 people and injuring over 150. The cause of the fire is not known.

According to district officials, thick clouds of black smoke is coming out of one of the tanks in which petrol is on the verge of completely burning.

“Lots of smoke with occasional flames can be seen,” one officer said.

The danger of the fire spreading to newer places is minimal.

“Once the fire is extinguished we will search and scan the area,” the fire officer said. The urgency is to locate if any other inflammable material is still in the depot.

Some of the industrialists who visited their units for the first time after the fire broke out were shocked to see the extent of damage to their companies.

“In my unit, window glasses have been shattered. Furniture and fixtures are broken. Some machines are also damaged. It seems as if a tornado has hit the factory,” cried Vijay Chordia, one of the owners of a jewellery export house.

The Sitapura Industrial Association has rejected the relief package announced by the state government.

According to the association, of the 1,100 units situated in the area, 500 have suffered losses ranging from Rs.500,000 to Rs.700,000 each.

“In some units, losses run into millions of rupees,” said S.N. Kabra, the association president.

“We reject the package offered by the state government. Offering rebates in the form of waiver of VAT collection, service tax and fire tax means nothing to us,” he added.

Residents of the area have filed over 70 police complaints accusing the IOC of criminal negligence.

“We received 70 complaints yesterday. Based on these complaints, we have filed a single FIR (first information report) against IOC,” a police officer said.

Residents have been complaining of lack of water and electricity, cut off since Thursday evening by the administration.

“We are not getting the required water… we have to depend on water tankers… Life has certainly become difficult,” rued Ashok Jain, one of the unfortunate many who lives near the disaster site.

Officials insisted that they were supplying water to the residents through tankers as electricity supply had been cut. “We are trying our best to provide water to the residents,” an official explained.

Compounding the woes of the people, a dark cloud of smoke has covered a vast area. People are experiencing difficulty in breathing as well as itching in the eyes.

The state pollution control board is monitoring the air pollution level. The department of environment has constituted a panel to assess the impact of the fire. It will submit its report by Nov 15.

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