A tanker lorry carrying about 20,000 litres of fuel caught fire just minutes before unloading at a petrol bunk in Perundurai near Erode. No one sustained injuries in the accident.

Witnesses said that the workers in the bunk were preparing for unloading the fuel when the tanker caught fire. The flames aided by the fuel spread quickly and engulfed the tanker within minutes.

Staff at the bunk alerted the fire and rescue services personnel. Before the fire personnel could reach the spot, flames spread to a goods auto rickshaw parked very close to the tanker lorry, a vegetable shop and two huts located near the bunk, destroying them completely. People in the shop and the huts fled immediately after they saw fire engulfing the tanker. Besides, over 3000 students studying at the Kongu Vellalar Matriculation Higher Secondary School, which is located at the back of the bunk, were evacuated immediately, witnesses said.

Two other petrol bunks located very close to the spot were closed immediately. Shop keepers in the vicinity also downed their shutters. Police suspended traffic in the inner roads of Perundurai for three hours and diverted the vehicles through alternatives routes.

Fire service personnel along with the police, workers from the Indian Oil Corporation's bottling plant in Perundurai Sipcot and locals put out the flames after struggling for more than two hours. Apart from seven fire engines from Erode and Tirupur districts, over 20 private water tankers were pressed into service.

Fire service personnel said that the cause of the fire was not yet known.

“The extent of the damage is being assessed,” a senior official said.

The quick action by the police and fire service personnel helped avert a major mishap involving school students. Teachers and locals evacuated the children in the school immediately after they noticed the fire.

Meanwhile, police had a tough time in managing the crowd that gathered to witness the fire fighting operation. Collector T. Soundiah, Superintendent of Police T. Jayachandran and senior officials visited the spot.

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