H.S. Varadarajan, Chief Fire Officer, KF&ES, said there was a lack of communication that saw NMPT being kept out of the loop of the drill.

Although the fire was simulated, and worker casualties an act, the mistakes in the fire drill conducted by Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited (MRPL) on Tuesday could be the difference between controlling the inferno with minimal damage and seeing it spread and consume the villages nearby.

As scheduled, at 11 a.m., a ‘leakage’ of fuel from the crude oil storage unit number 7001D which stores over 56.4 million litres of crude oil, was ignited due to a ‘spark’ generated from a welding site nearby.

In this case, four workers were reported as ‘casualties’, and these along with others ‘injured’ during the ‘incident’ were taken to MRPL Hospital, Srinivasa Hospital, Mukka, and A.J. Shetty Hospital.

The fire sirens were rung, and the workers switched on the water sprinkles on the storage unit and on other storage units nearby to ensure the fire did not spread. Fire tenders in MRPL rushed in to spray foam in the dyke around the tank.

Men with Fire Proximity Suits ensured the fire fighting got closer to the inferno. When the “fire” threatened to spread, an official said MRPL contacted the district administration and nearby fire units from MCF, BASF, Karnataka Fire and Emergency Services (KF&ES), and NMPT for help. Within 20 minutes, tenders from KF and ES reached the site.

Meanwhile, the traffic movement at Katipalla and Bala villages, which border MRPL, were regulated, while residents of Bala village and MRPL colony were evacuated to a community hall and club house respectively.

By 12.30 p.m., 13 fire tenders and over 200 workers of MRPL in the fire safety division put out the ‘fire’.

The drill was overseen by nine observers who pointed out the flaws detected during the drill.

H.S. Varadarajan, Chief Fire Officer, KF&ES, said there was a lack of communication that saw NMPT being kept out of the loop of the drill. “They were waiting for a call, but for some reason, they were not informed of the fire here,” he said.

He faulted the lack of police participation for not regulating traffic or managing crowds outside MRPL at the time of the ‘crisis’.

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