A high-level committee appointed by the Union Petroleum Ministry began on Monday its inquiry into the cause of the fire at the Indian Oil Corporation depot here, even as the death toll in the industrial disaster went up to 12 with a body being recovered and a man succumbing to his injuries.

The body Kishan Singh was dug out of the debris of an adjacent factory in the industrial area. An IOC driver, Jagdish, who suffered severe burn injuries in the fire accident died late on Sunday night.

Committee chairperson M.B. Lal, former Chairman and Managing Director of HPCL, visited the site at Sitapura Industrial Area along with the other members and the civil and police officers in the afternoon. They interacted with the people to get first-hand information on the devastating fire that has been raging since Thursday.

The committee’s members include Executive Director, Oil Industry Safety Directorate, J.P. Verma, and Rajasthan government’s Principal Mining and Petroleum Secretary Govind Sharma. The team has been asked to recommend safety measures too. It will submit its report within 60 days.

Black smoke billowing out of four of the 11 huge vertical storage tanks at the IOC terminal continued to form dark clouds in the sky for the fifth consecutive day. While the fire was raging in two tanks, the blaze in two others subsided considerably.

According to the official sources, the Central committee will assess the losses and check the structural damages to the buildings and the tanks on the depot’s premises.

The lids of two tanks broke in the high temperature at the terminal, creating panic on Sunday night. It also led to a fire in the containers stockpiled at a nearby factory, which was immediately brought under control.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, presiding over a meeting with the IOC officers at the State Secretariat here, said timely assistance should be provided to those affected by the catastrophe.

He said Petroleum Minister Murli Deora had convened a meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday to deliberate on the compensation to be paid to the affected villagers and the industrial units that suffered losses. State Industries Minister Rajendra Pareek, Principal Industries Secretary C.S. Rajan and Rajasthan State Industrial Development and Investment Corporation (RIICO) chairman Sunil Arora would attend the meeting.

Chief Secretary T. Srinivasan suggested that the IOC utilise its corporate social responsibility fund to help villagers whose houses and crops were damaged and those facing health problems.

The State government announced exemption to the industries affected by the fire from payment of value added tax till March 31 next year and also waived service tax and fire service tax for a year.

Mr. Gehlot said the tenure for repayment of loans obtained by such units from RIICO and Rajasthan Financial Corporation would be extended till the next year. These financial institutions would provide fresh top-up loans up to Rs.10 lakh to entrepreneurs desiring to set up industries in the zone.

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