Buncefield Oil Blaze
Describing the Buncefield, Hertfordshire oil depot fire of December 2005 means listing figures that are hard to comprehend such is their magnitude. But the most amazing figure is a zero, the number of deaths caused by the disaster, thanks in no small measure to the blaze beginning on a Sunday.
Some of those extraordinary figures help put the blaze into context: at one point the explosions registered 2.4 on the Richter scale; at the peak fire-fighters were using 25,000 litres of water a minute; and the explosions were so loud that some were reportedly heard in Belgium more than 100 miles distant.
The precise causes of the explosion that began the blaze are still not clear, though the Health and Safety Executive investigation did provide some insights, leaving other questions open pending probable legal actions. At the time there was speculation aplenty about what had happened, in particular some in the media inevitably asked was it a terrorist strike such was the impact of the explosions in terms of disruption to everyday life – some 2,000 people were temporarily forced from their homes by the smoke and danger of further explosions; hundreds of schools across Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire were closed on the following Monday and Tuesday; the M1 was closed for a time; and the aviation industry was severely inconvenienced, the depot having handled much of Heathrow ’s fuel.
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