A major disaster was averted at the Visakhapatnam Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) refinery after the authorities put out a fire that broke out on Thursday night. None were injured in the incident.

"The fire was triggered by a pump failure. Though initially it was a big fire involving the adjacent equipment, it was brought under control in about an hour's time. All emergency protection systems worked in accordance with the design and helped in curbing the fire. The fire-fighting personnel of the refinery reached the site within half an hour,” the refinery stated in a release.

District Collector V. Seshadri said all other units were isolated after noticing the fire so as to prevent its spread. All the workers present in the refinery were evacuated after an alert was sounded.

“After non-stop fire fighting operation by 10 fire tenders from neighbouring industries and Fire Services Department, we finally extinguished the inferno that caused major damage to Crude Distillation Unit-3 at 4.40 a.m. on Friday,” a spokesman for the refinery said. The fire was put out within six hours after noticing flames billowing out from one of the crude distillation units.

The spokesman said all other production units in the refinery were functioning normally. Only after a detailed probe, would they be in a position to estimate the loss caused to the equipment and other infrastructure, he added.

As the news of the fire spread, people in the vicinity along with workers of several industries ran out the streets leading to traffic jams on the highway passing through Malkapuram, Sriharipuram and Gajuwaka.

A vapour cloud explosion following leakage of LPG, in 1997, in this refinery led to one of the worst-ever industrial accidents in the region in which 56 people were killed.

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