Nine Indian Oil Corp officials arrested in Jaipur blaze case

Jaipur, July 2 (IANS) Nine Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) officials, including general manager Gautam Ghosh, have been arrested for criminal negligence in a major fire at its depot in October last year in which 11 people were killed, police said Friday.

‘We have arrested nine IOC officials under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) including section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder and carrying a maximum sentence of ten years in prison),’ Inspector General (Jaipur zone) B.L. Soni told IANS.

The blaze broke out in the depot in Sitapura industrial area, about 20 km from the Jaipur city centre, at 7.15 p.m. Oct 29 and took around 10 days to extinguish.

A few cases charging IOC with criminal negligence were filed by local residents and private companies in the first week of November 2009, following the blaze in which 150 people were also injured.

The total losses suffered by Indian Oil amounted to nearly Rs.280 crore (Rs.2.8 billion) and the total loss of petroleum products was about 60,000 kilolitres.

An independent probe report released in February this year found human error, lack of safety procedures and design flaws to be the major reasons responsible for the fire.

‘The basic or root cause is an absence of site-specific written operating procedures, absence of leak stopping devices from a remote location and insufficient understanding of hazards, risks and consequences,’ M.B. Lal, who chaired the independent inquiry committee, said.

In a 2003 audit, the Oil Industries Safety Directorate found that the remote leak stopping device was not working at the Jaipur terminal. The inquiry found that despite the recommendation in 2003, the device was never operational in the last six years, he added.

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