The inferno at the IOC fuel depot near here continued as army personnel assisted local authorities in bringing the flames under control 18 hours after the fire broke out on Thursday night.

Six company officials were dead and 150 persons injured in the fire mishap.

Petroleum Minister Murli Deora, who rushed here to take stock of the situation, said the fire has to die down on its own and there was “no other solution. There is nothing else one can do.There is no other solution or alternative“.

He said a five-member committee headed by M B Lal, former Chairman and Managing Director, Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd, will go into the causes of the fire and suggest safety measures.

Fire due to leakage

The fire, that started due to a leakage in one of the valves at around 1930 hrs on Thursday, continues to rage in five of the 13 tanks that stored petrol, diesel and kerosene.

Two diesel tanks, each having 20,000 kilolitres of the auto fuel, and three 10,000 kl petrol storages were on fire and it may not be before evening when foam-carrying fire tenders sent from Mathura, Panipat and Ahmedabad can begin dousing the fire.

Mr. Deora said IOC will give an ex-gratia of Rs 10 lakh to the kin of those killed in the fire and Rs 2 lakh to those seriously injured. Rs 1 lakh would be given to those with minor injuries. This is besides the compensation announced by the Rajasthan government.

Thick dark smoke was billowing from the tanks, and could be seen from a distance of at least ten kms on the Jaipur-Tonk highway.

District Collector Kuldeep Ranka told PTI that a charred body was clearly visible near the IOC tank premises, but it was not possible to reach and recover it.

Rajasthan Medical and Health Minister I Ahmed Durru Mian said one patient each was in a critical condition at the Mahatma Gandhi Hospital and SMS Hospital. Of the injured, 21 patients were hospitalised and rest discharged.

The IOC-Petroleum officials were verifying records of employees present on duty when the fire broke out around 1930 hours yesterday in the densely populated Sitapura industrial area, about 20 kms from here, where dozens of engineering, medical and technical colleges are located.

“It would be premature to comment how many people are trapped inside.Let IOC officials come out with the list of employees who were present,” Mr. Ranka said.

IG, Jaipur range, B L Soni said “We have spoken to various senior officers of IOC. We suspect that between four and six people are trapped inside.

Assistant Fire Officer Bhanwar Singh Tyagi said the intensity of fire has been reduced to 75 per cent and by evening it would die down when the fuel gets fully burnt.

Cold water mixed with foam was sprayed on the pipeline of LPG storage tankers located near the IOC-petroleum depot to keep it cool and unaffected from the heat generated from the fire.Gas valves of the pipeline were closed.

The sister of a trapped engineer Ravinder Kumar said the fire department should have acted promptly and rued that the police was not letting the family members in.

Residents of Sitapura, Pratapnagar, and nearby villages suffered breathing problems as the dense smoke had a suffocating affect on them. “People are advised to use mask or hanky”, the collector said.

A radius of five km was cordoned off in the Sitapura and Pratapnagar area, he said.

Train services affected

The Rail and road connectivity on the Jaipur-Kota section up to Sawaimadhopur district was stopped or diverted as a precautionary measure.

The Petroleum Minister visited the site and went to the hospitals to meet patients. He also held talks with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Union minister C P Joshi, who belong to Rajasthan.

A teenaged boy recalled from his hospital bed that there was a sudden blast and in a trice fire engulfed the entire area. “We were very scared. I am thankful that I have come out alive.”

People within one km radius of the fire vacated their homes to take shelter at safer places. Heavy plantation in the area minimised the impact of the blaze.

Twenty-two fire tenders and about 135 fire personnel were at the spot. Three columns of Army and about 200 RAC personnel were also deployed in the area to keep people away and assist the civil administration in fire fighting operations.

Educational institutions were closed in the nearby areas for the day.

The fire broke out at around 7.30 PM last evening when petrol was being transferred from the depot to a pipeline and soon got out of control.A leak in the pipeline is suspected to have caused the blaze.

General Manager, IOC (Jaipur) Gautam Bose said, “An officer and two staff members went up to open the valve of a tanker when there was leakage and it spread all over“.

An IOC official said the depot catered to the fuel requirements of Rajasthan. Three kerosene tanks and two petrol storage tanks were safe.

The 35 water-carrying fire tenders rushed by the state government are being used for cooling the area around the tanks.

Mr. Deora said the depot feeds the supply depots of IOC, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum and alternate arrangements have already been made to ensure that there is no fuel shortage in Rajasthan.

Specialised fire fighting teams have reached Jaipur from Mumbai and Delhi and have begun assessing the situation.

“The initial assessment suggests that it may take be late in the evening when the entire fuel burns out and we are able to contain the fire,” the IOC official said, adding because of the intensity of the fire it is not possible to even get near the site.