PSO blaze in Islamabad caused by ‘electric spark from water cooler’, says report

Published April 23, 2024
Firefighters can be seen dousing an oil tanker at a petrol station in Blue Area in Islamabad. — File photo
Firefighters can be seen dousing an oil tanker at a petrol station in Blue Area in Islamabad. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: A six-member committee formed to probe the blaze at a petrol pump in Blue Area has revealed that the oil tanker caught fire due to an “electric spark” from a water cooler installed on the premises, officials told Dawn.

The incident occurred at a PSO site near Beverly Centre, Blue Area, on April 19 during the decanting of petrol from the oil tanker. Initially, the petrol pump’s staff succeeded in handling the fire, and the oil tanker driver efficiently drove the fire-hit vehicle away from the premises.

Subsequently, the district rescue teams arrived at the location to extinguish the fire and the petrol pump was sealed until clearance from relevant authorities to initiate operations.

Subsequently, District Magistrate Irfan Nawaz Memon ordered an inquiry to determine the cause of the fire and whether or not the SOP for unloading the supply from the tanker to the pump was followed. In this regard, a six-member committee was constituted to probe the matter comprising officials of the capital administration, the Capital Development Authority, and the police along with an employee of the PSO.

Inquiry reveals fire ‘probably’ spread on wider span due to spill-over from oil tanker

The inquiry report said at the preliminary stage of inquiry, the petrol pump’s CCTV footage was examined and it was found that the vehicle was offloading petrol into the petrol pump’s oil tank when an electric spark occurred at a water cooler adjacent to it. As the fire broke out, the nozzles of the oil tanker also caught fire.

The inquiry also found a live electricity connection adjacent to the underground petrol tanks (the unloading area). As it is against the SOPs regarding unloading petrol at petrol pumps, the petrol pump’s management tried to conceal the presence of live electric wire at the said location.

This committee was also verbally informed that a complete audit of this site was recently conducted by the PSO inspection team from Islamabad. However, the availability of the electric current near the petrol unloading site was ignored.

A perusal of the CCTV footage also showed that the probable cause of the spreading of fire on a wider span was the spillover of petrol from the oil tanker. “However, this possibility needs further probe,” it added.

“Unfortunately, there is no back-up electricity connection for the CCTV cameras, and as soon as the main electric switch of the petrol pump was turned off, there was a complete blackout as far as the further footage is concerned.”

It is pertinent to mention that the petrol pump is located right next to Beverly Centre, which houses a large number of offices, shops and restaurants. It is frequented by thousands of citizens, in addition to employees of businesses during the day.

On the day of the incident, had the fire not been controlled in time through the swift action by the rescue teams, there could have been a “more severe eventuality” for not just the petrol pump, but also the Beverly Centre.

“It is therefore recommended that a complete audit in all respects (technical, fire etc.) be carried out of the PSO petrol pump in question, and generally of all PSO petrol pumps in Islamabad to avoid a similar incident in future,” the report said. “Once the PSO petrol pump in question fulfils the SOPs set out by PSO (as OMC) after completion of the audit, it may be de-sealed under intimation of the city assistant commissioner.”

Published in Dawn, April 23rd, 2024

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