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October 19, 2010

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Fire-hit fuel firm told to go 2 years ago

VILLAGERS expressed safety concerns about a fuel processing plant sited on their doorstep almost two years before it was destroyed by an explosion on Sunday.

In early 2009, officials with Jiading District's Jinghua Village Committee listed the area's fuel processing plant as a hazard and called for its immediate relocation.

But the request was taken no further and the plant, containing 200 drums of fuel, went up in flames on Sunday afternoon.

A committee official, who declined to be named, told Shanghai Daily that at the beginning of 2009 they issued a notice to the area's plants, factories and warehouses which used or stored inflammable materials, asking the owners to relocate.

She said some businesses subsequently relocated away from residential areas, but did not know why the fuel processing plant was still there. "Probably, the plant was abandoned or the owner couldn't be found," said the official.

But villagers said they believed the plant was still being used before the fire, claiming that before Sunday's accident they saw workers parking trucks at the site.

Other committee officials refused to comment on why they didn't step up efforts to find the owner or, if it was established that the plant was abandoned, involve law enforcement to have its contents removed.

According to the Regulations of Safety Management on Inflammable Goods, inflammables should be stored at special warehouses attended by staff with fire control skills.

A warehouse owner, surnamed Dong, told Shanghai Youth Daily on Sunday that he had received the notice issued by the village officials in 2009 and had relocated his paint storage warehouse.

"I moved because the village required all the plants processing inflammable material to move away. So why didn't the fuel plant obey?" asked Dong.

The fuel plant was engulfed in 20-meter-high flames after the blast at 2:20pm on Sunday. The fire, which spread to nearby buildings and polluted a river with burning oil, was extinguished an hour later by firefighters. No one was injured.

Firefighters were yesterday trying to establish the cause of the blaze.


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