The fire at the 30,000 kilolitre oil tank of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) on the Jawahar Dweep, also known as Butcher Island, continued to rage on for the third consecutive day on Sunday. The fire department waited for the diesel to burn out before initiating full-fledged cooling operations.
On Sunday evening, fire officials said oil was left in the tank uptil the 3-metre level, which could take as much as 20 hours to get consumed. “We are using sprinklers on nearby tanks to prevent the fire from spreading. Our current operations include allowing the tank’s oil to burn out and limit the damage to just one tank. Foaming operations are not working due to wind. We are using water fountains between tanks to avoid the spread of fire,” said BMC deputy chief fire officer Hemant Parab.
The island lies 9 km off the city’s east coast between Mumbai and the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT). The island has 12 oil tanks in total of which eight are owned by BPCL in which light diesel oil, diesel and petroleum products are stored.
Firemen from the Mumbai fire brigade, Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT), BPCL, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation and CIDCO have been deputed to handle the large-scale fire operations.
The fire department used foaming operations, sprinklers and threw water on tanks as part of the cooling operation. A total of 50 personnel from MbPT have been stationed at the spot for cooling operations. Firemen are also using large pieces of wet cloth and wrapping them around tanks to prevent the overheated tanks from catching fire.
“We are trying to save other tanks from excessive heat through cooling operations. The tanks numbered 12, 14, 15 and 16 are part of cooling operation,” said S S Ghadigaokar, fireman at the MbPT fire station.
The tank numbered 13 caught fire on Friday. While MbPT officials suspect that lightning struck the tank leading to the massive fire, it is yet to be confirmed as the cause, Mumbai fire brigade said.
On Friday evening, around 4.45 pm, workers on the Butcher Island, commonly called Jawahar Dweep, heard a loud explosion. The Tank 13, which is over 40 metres high, had caught fire by the time control operations could be initiated. The tank that caught fire was full to its maximum capacity.
“We hope to save 15,000 metric tonnes of oil from the affected tank,” said MbPT chairman Sanjay Bhatia. On Monday, after the fire is doused, a complete evaluation of the damage will be carried out. Bhatia added that the tank which caught fire has been entirely damaged and melted.
The oil terminal, fire officials said, has posed a challenge and all inflammable goods have been offloaded from the vicinity to prevent further spread of fire. An underground pipeline that connects Butcher Island to Mahul refinery has been shut down as a precautionary measure. The pipeline transfers crude oil to refineries in Mumbai for making oil and diesel.
“Considering the inflammable nature of the cargo, the only feasible measure is to allow controlled burning of HSD (High speed diesel) oil from the affected tank with continuous cooling of surrounding tanks,” MbPT had said in a statement on Saturday. The Jawahar Dweep island has four jetties. MbPT officials said shipping traffic has been diverted to Pirpau jetty.