Cuddalore, 21 November 2012: (UPDATE AT 4:00 pm) A major fire is reported from the premises of Arkema Peroxide in the SIPCOT Industrial Complex. According to SACEM the fire broke out in Arkemas storage area at about 2.30 pm today. The alarm from the unit alerted the monitors and the villagers. The monitors reported thick black smoke followed by two successive explosions accompanied by flames reaching a height of at least 100 ft. At least 5 workers have so far been hospitalized as a result of this accident. There is a possibility of an increase in the number of injured persons.
According to the monitors there is a gentle breeze from South West to North East direction that is carrying the smoke to areas at least 5-6 km from the site of the incident. About fifteen minutes after the incident, the residents near TANFAC Industries reported odours like burning of oil accompanied by symptoms of throat irritation, suffocation and nausea.
Complaints about the incident have been filed with the District Collector and TNPCB. There are at least 3 fire engines which are trying to control the fire. Local police officials have also rushed to the spot. The fire was not brought under control at the time of writing this update. While the contents of the storage unit are not known, it is known that the company manufactures organic peroxides and stores huge quantities of highly inflammable and explosive raw materials. A similar incident took place in the unit in June 2006 (http://www.sipcotcuddalore.com/updates_280606.html).
More details are awaited.
UPDATE AT 4.30 pm: Semmankuppam villagers report mild sour odour accompanied with eye burning and throat irritation.
UPDATE AT 4.40 pm: Monitors at the factory main gate report a change in wind direction, it is now East to West. Fire has still not been controlled, there is heavy black smoke from the site of the fire.
UPDATE at 6.30 pm: The District Collector visited the factory site at about 4.45 pm and inspected the damage. The fire was brought under control by that time. The Collector also took stock of the emergency response measures that the factory took in order to contain the damage and spread of toxins. The Collector then proceeded to interact with the residents of the nearby villages and shared details about the incident, he has also made arrangements for night stay for those villagers who are too scared to return to their homes following the explosion. He informed that a team from TNPCB Chennai is on its way to the factory to investigate the incident.