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May 10, 2010

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Towering inferno at Pudong refinery

TWO massive explosions and an ensuing fire with towering flames ripped through an oil refinery in the Pudong New Area yesterday.

Heavy smoke shrouded the area for several hours. There were no reports of injuries.

At about 11:30am, a 5,000-cubic-meter naphtha storage tank blew up at Sinopec Shanghai Gaoqiao Petrochemical Co, said Zhou Meiliang, an official with the Shanghai Fire Control Bureau.

About 40 fire engines from Pudong, Yangpu and Baoshan districts reached the site within minutes.

Traffic was temporarily blocked in a 2-kilometer-diameter area around the fire.

Armed police were called in to stop the many nearby residents trying to get closer to watch the blaze.

"The flames were higher than the three-story building in front of the plant," said Hu Qisheng, who runs a bike-repair stall next to the site in Gaoqiao Town.

It took at least three hours for firefighters to douse the blaze, according to the Shanghai Administration of Work Safety.

No production facilities were damaged and nearby houses also escaped unscathed, it said.

"I heard two big bangs," said a resident living close to the plant. "My apartment shook."

The fire was out but smoke was still billowing from the site as late as 3:30pm, witnesses said.

A media official with the plant confirmed that no one was hurt and that an investigation into the cause of the explosions was ongoing.

The fire didn't have much impact on air quality, according to the Pudong environmental protection authorities.

A good air flow yesterday diminished the smell and the rain washed out the particles of the fire.

The 230,000 barrel-per-day refinery is one of China's largest and its owned by Sinopec, China's largest oil refining corporation.

In June 2004, a 2,000-square-meter workshop at the Shanghai refinery was engulfed by a huge fire.


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