25 August 2008

17-19 August, 2008: Fire At Tanjung Langsat Port

At about 6.45pm, on the 17th of August 2008, a fire broke out at a 16,000 tonne gasoline tank located at the Tanjung Langsat Port in Johor. The tank was leased to Trafigura Pte Ltd, a Swiss company. The fire caused an inferno with billowing black smoke which was visible miles away. The police could not identify the cause of the fire but ruled out the possibility of sabotage.

On the following day, the fire worsened, spreading to an adjecent tank. At about 7.10pm on the 18th of August 2008, the adjecent tank, containing about 8,000 cubic metres of inflammable napthalene, ignited from overheating. The contents of six other nearby tanks, containing naptha, gasoline and methyl tertiary butyl ether, were relocated to contain the fire.

On the 19th of August, 2008, the fire department resorted to high pressured water pumps ("hydro subs") to draw water from the sea to cool the tanks. The fire at the first tank, containing unleaded gasoline, was being contained by using foam flooding techniques.

The fire was finally put out after 67 hours of fire-fighting efforts. There were no casualties and no fatalities recorded. At last count, the losses included 17.8 million litres of unleaded gasoline and 8 million litres of naphtalene.

Many people were involved in this operation:

  • "At least 70 fire and rescue personnel in 11 fire engines from the Johor Baru, Johor Jaya, Pasir Gudang, and Kulai stations" - The Star report dated 18/8/2008
  • "Some 244 firemen and 16 fire engines from Terengganu, Perak, Negri Sembilan, Pahang, Kedah and Johor" - The Star report dated 20/8/2008
  • Johor police department
  • Fifteen (15) personnel from Petronas, Malacca division - The Star report dated 20/8/2008
  • Seri Alam OCPD Supt Mohd Roslan Zainuddin estimated "Around 500 personnel including 14 fire engines were involved in the operation" - The Star report dated 20/8/2008

Here are some other factoids about the incident:

  • Bernama reports that the adjecent tank contained 11,200 cubic metres of napthalene - Bernama report dated 19/8/2008
  • The flames at the adjecent tank (containing napthalene) were as high as 30 metres
  • Police have reassured the public that the air is safe as it only contains hydrocarbon
  • Napthalene is possibly carcinogenic

Why is there a discrepancy between the 11,200 cubic metres of napthalene (reported by Bernama) and 8,000 cubic metres of napthalene (reported by The Star)? A subsequent Bernama report on 20/8/2008 explains this possible discrepancy between the 11,200 cubic metres of napthalene (that it reported) and the 8,000 cubic metres of napthalene (that The Star reported). Seri Alam OCPD Roslan Zainuddin was reported saying, "Petrol tank two contained 11,200 cubic metres of naphtha and only 3,200 cubic metres of gasoline was transferred to petrol tank seven before the fire from petrol tank one spread." It would seem logical if the "3,200 cubic metres of gasoline" actually meant to refer to "3,200 cubic metres of napthalene". 11,200 minus 3,200 would leave us with 8,000.

(1) The Star Online, 16000 Tonne Gasoline Tank Ablaze, dated 18/8/2008
(2) The Star Online, Another Fuel Tank Goes Up In Flames by Meera Vijayan, dated 19/8/2008
(3) The Star Online, Seawater To Fight Inferno by Gladys Tay and Farek Zolkepli, dated 20/8/2008
(4) The Star Online, Fire At Tg. Langsat Port Put Out by Meera Vijayan, dated 20/8/2008
(5) Bernama Online, Oil Tank Fire: Police Say Air Is Safe dated 19/8/2008
(6) Bernama Online, Fire At Two Petrol Storage Tanks In Tg Langsat Put Out dated 20/8/2008


Shah Jehan said...

Wow. It has to take 3 days for the fire distinguishing people to turn off the fire. Huge loss. At a time when petrol prices is increasing and also due to diminishing supply. A rather huge loss to the nature and the business proprietor...