Accident Reporting January 2022- April 2022
13 killed and at least 100 injured in a truck blast (Ghana, Apiate, 20 January 2022)
13 people were killed and at least 100 others injured in a blast in western Ghana on 20 January after a truck carrying explosives collided with a motorcycle. The truck was on its way to an internationally-run gold mine in the West of Ghana when the collision happened. The blast of the vehicle explosion hit Apeatse, a nearby village in the Prestea Huni-Valley municipality near the town of Bogoso, destroying nearly every building.
The vehicle was transporting explosives owned by Madrid-based Maxam Corp to the Chirano gold mine, run by Toronto-based Kinross Gold Corporation. It was on fire for almost 45 minutes before the explosion, in which time locals were allowed around the scene without firemen or policemen to stop them. The explosion exposed the risk of transporting mining goods in poor areas with limited emergency response.
Although the Spanish company denied responsibility for the explosion and blamed a local contractor, Arthanns Logistics, in charge of transporting the explosives, it has been fined $6 million by the Ghana's Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources for violating storage and transport laws in relation to the transportation of explosives.
According to Reuters, the authorities said in a statement: "The Ministry has established regulatory breaches on the part of Maxam ... in respect to the manufacture, storage and transportation of explosives" but did not provide specific details about which laws were broken or how they contributed to the accident. Also, the lands ministry confirmed its intention of conducting an investigation of Arthanns and another logistic company, for possible responsibility in the accident.
4 killed in a fire at a major oil refinery (Kuwait, 14 January 2022)
A fire at Kuwait's Mina al-Ahmadi oil refinery on 14 January killed 2 workers and injured 10 others, out of which 5 were severally burned, the Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC) said in a statement. The fire happened during maintenance work and is the third fire at the country’s largest oil refinery in a span of 4 months. Earlier in January, a smaller fire broke out at a distinct petrochemical line managed by the company but no victims were reported. Another fire occurred on 18 October 2021 leaving several workers injured.
The fire was extinguished after a few hours by the KNPC’s firemen and the Kuwait Fire Force, KNPC said. The Minister of Oil and KPNC’s Chairman accompanied the company’s executives on site to oversee operations and the transfer of the injured workers to hospital. The company confirmed later that 2 other employees succumbed to injuries at the hospital, raising the death toll to four.
The company also stated that the refinery and export operations were not affected by the incident since the damaged unit was already out of service. The refinery was built to produce 25,000 barrels of oil a day to respond to the country’s domestic market with diesel and gasoline. It recently went through an expansion to increase the capacity to 346,000 barrels a day.
6 injured in Westlake tank explosion (USA, Louisiana 26 January 2022)
An explosion on 26 January at Westlake Chemical South in Louisiana injured at least 6 people. While one injured worker was treated near the explosion, the 5 remaining were taken to hospitals for treatment, the company’s spokesman said, according to KPLC-TV. The explosion occurred after a fire broke out near an ethylene dichloride storage tank had been taken out of service for maintenance. The tank was nearly empty but the fumes trapped inside are highly flammable, said a spokesperson. Because the storage tank was nearly empty, the fire was brought quickly under control.
A huge smoke cloud was seen several miles away over the chemical plant at the time of the explosion. More than 7,000 students in a dozen schools were ordered to shelter-in-place to prevent exposure to toxic gases. A shelter-in-place was ordered for nearby residents and schools following the explosion.
A statement from Westlake Chemical said local and state authorities were notified and an investigation into the cause of the accident is underway.
Ethylene dichloride is a chemical used in the production of plastic and vinyl products, which is certified as a human carcinogen by the EPA. It can “harm the human nervous system, liver and kidneys, and can cause breathing and heart problems, nausea and vomiting if inhaled”, according to Nola.com.
“A review of federal and state records reveals that Westlake has a long track record of chemical spills, fires, air quality violations, failed safety inspections, and accidents that have burned and battered dozens of workers in Louisiana”, they said.
The incident at the Westlake Chemical South complex was almost identical to the one that happened on 27 September 2021 at Westlake Petrochemical, a large plant about five miles away. The 6 injured people were contract employees working on a planned maintenance turnaround. The plant, used in the production of ethylene, was offline for the planned maintenance. The blast created by the explosion caused injuries such as broken bones, burns and busted eardrums to at least 23 workers.
6,500 people evacuated as officials fear chemical explosion at North Carolina fertilizer plant (USA, North Carolina 31 January 2022)
A fire erupted on 31 January at the Weaver Fertilizer Plant in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and continued to burn for several days until 7 February. The fertilizer plant containing 600 tons of ammonium nitrate almost caused one of the largest explosions to ever occur in the US, officials said.
According to officials, the fire started at around 19:00 when firemen and hundreds of emergency workers from local and federal agencies rushed to the plant site. The first firefighters were called in to handle a fire on the plant’s loading dock. On arrival, they faced a large fire that had spread to the main building which soon became engulfed with flames and collapsed. After trying for two hours to contain the blaze, they left the site because the risk of explosion was too significant on top of the challenge of getting enough water to the site. The situation forced Winston-Salem officials to evacuate within a mile radius, temporarily displacing 6,500 people, including students of Wake Forest University and more than 200 inmates from a prison in the area. Officials did not know how the fire started.
There was an estimated 500 tons of ammonium nitrate and 5,000 tons of finished fertilizer being stored at the site and an additional 100 tons of ammonium nitrate in a rail car next to the facility, said Winston-Salem Fire Chief William Mayo during a press conference. Mayo said that is far more than the 240 tons of ammonium nitrate that caused an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas in 2013 and killed 15 people, injured 252, and damaged or destroyed 500 buildings.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was called to the plant site early on during the fire to conduct air monitoring activities and to collect water samples. EPA said it would continue the monitoring as long as the firefighters activities were impacting communities living in the area of the Weaver Fertilizer Plant. According to local media, the plant site was not equipped with sprinklers nor fire alarm system. Furthermore, the plants’ building codes and regulations dated from 1939, the year which it was constructed, they said.
Winston Weaver’s spokesperson, Andrew Carroll, confirmed that all 36 employees are safe and that the company is cooperating with authorities. “We will continue working with first responders and relevant officials to ensure the safety of the community, and we will participate fully into the investigation into the cause of the fire,” Carroll said in a statement.
Deadly explosion at petrochemical plant killed 4 and injured 4 (South Korea, Yeosu, 11 February 2022)
An explosion on 11 February at a petrochemical factory in the southern city of Yeosu killed 4 people and injured another 4. Three of the victims were employees of a maintenance company. The explosion happened at 9:26 a.m at a naptha cracker owned by Yeochun NCC in the Yeosu industrial complex which is 320km of Seoul. Workers present at the time of the explosion said it happened during a testing of the factory's heat exchange system after it was cleaned by the maintenance company, Korea JoongAng Daily said. A Yeochun NCC official said the cleaning process and associated tests afterwards are a routine procedure carried out every four years.
According to police, the blast occurred “while employees of the contractor increased the internal pressure of the heat exchange system after cleaning it to check for gas leaks.” Investigators believe that the increased pressure triggered the explosion, blowing a one-ton seal onto the workers, Korea JoongAng Daily said. The naptha cracker was ordered to be shut down by the Labor Ministry during the time an investigation is conducted, the media said. The two other plants of Yeochun NCC in Yeosu remain in operation.
According to Korea JoongAng Daily, Yeochun NCC will probably be the first petrochemical company to face punishment under a new industrial accident law ratified in January 2022 which subjects owners and CEOs of companies with five or more employees to a jail sentence of minimum one-year or a fine of up to 1 billion won ($833,600) in the event of an important industrial accident if safety conditions in the workplace have been neglected.
Three injured in an explosion at petrochemical plant in Malaysia (Malaysia, Pasir Gudang, 24 February 2022)
An explosion and fire occurred on 24 February at a polybutadiene rubber plant in Tanjung Langsat industrial complex in Malaysia's Johor state. Three workers sustained serious injuries in the explosion, local news reported. One worker broke his leg after jumping from the building to save his life and two workers were suffering from burns on their hands. The explosion occurred at 15:15 local time, damaging a pipeline and storage tanks. Around 38 rescuers from Pasir Gudang, Larkin and Johor Jaya’s Fire Departments rushed to the plant site to extinguish the fire. The rescue operations ended around 20:30 p.m.
The incident happened at Lotte Ube Synthetic Rubbers (LUSR) plant, a joint venture between Lotte Chemical from South Korea, Lotte Chemical Titan from Malaysia and Ubbe Industries from Japan.
The cause of the explosion was yet to determine but early investigations reported that it was caused by two exploding cement tanks. The authorities have shut down the plant the time an investigation is conducted, local media reported.
Powerful explosions triggered by accidental fire at military depot in Pakistan (Pakistan, Sialkot 20 March 2022)
A series of powerful explosions occurred on 20 March at a military depot due to an accidental fire caused by shot-circuit, local media reported. The fire started in an ammunition shed near the cantonment area of Sialkot, around 100km from Lahore. Firefighters and the rescue team managed to end the fire after several hours.
When asked about casualties or injuries and damages, the spokesperson of the rescue team said that “only the military is authorized to talk on the matter.” The statement issued by the Pakistan Army's media wing, the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), informed that "due to short circuiting, accidental fire broke out in an ammunition shed near Sialkot Garrison. No loss of life. Effective and timely response contained damages and fire has been extinguished."
Residents said that the explosions were so powerful that they thought it was a terrorist attack. Also, it was very confusing as the blasts were happening one after another, an eyewitness reported to TPI.
Explosion at Greek dynamite factory killed 3 (Greece, Grevena 21 March 2022)
A deadly explosion at a commercial dynamite factory in northern Greece killed 3 workers on 21 March, Euronews reported. The powerful explosion occurred at 08:15 at a factory of the Hellenic Explosive Technology (ELTEK) in Grevena, about 420 km north of Athens. ELTEK said that the three workers, who had been declared missing for hours, were dead. Another factory worker was wounded but with non-life-threatening injuries, and sent to hospital for treatment.
“The factory has turned into a mound of rubble and metal”, the spokesperson of the Fire Brigade said on the scene of the incident. The company’s spokesman also said that the relevant authorities were investigating the exact circumstances of the accident and that the company intended to fully cooperate.
In an interview with the state-run television, the regional governor, Giorgos Kasapidis, said “Explosives experts and rescue specialists are on the way to secure the site and make sure there are no secondary consequences from the initial explosion and to take other actions necessary while investigating the causes of the accident”.
Series of explosions at a metal recycling facility (USA, Montclair, 31 March 2022)
A series of explosions rocked a metal recycling plant in the 4200 block of Third Street at 9:15 a.m, injuring 4 people, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said. The conditions of the victims and details about their injuries were not immediately known. Two patients were transported to a hospital by ambulance, while two others went to a medical center in civilian vehicles. The smoke from the blaze could be seen for miles.
The incident prompted the officials to evacuate some areas and place nearby schools on a precautionary lockdown. A mandatory evacuation order was issued shortly after 4:20 p.m. by the city authorities for some nearby areas “due to potentially dangerous gases being released from the fiery explosions” and was lifted several hours later.
Battalion Chief Ryan Dierck of the Montclair Fire Department stated to local media “When you heat compressed-gas cylinders, there’s always the potential risk that they could rupture”. “So, because of that threat, we’re assessing that with trained professionals to make sure that it’s safe for the community.” The cause of the incident was under investigation.