Massive explosions hit fuel depot

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I felt the explosion this morning, im sure others on DW did too.

Three large explosions have rocked a fuel depot near Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire shooting flames hundreds of feet into the sky.

Police say there are casualties and emergency services are at the scene.

The first blast happened at 0603 GMT at the Buncefield fuel depot, close to junction 8 of the M1 motorway, 10 miles from Luton airport.

It is being treated as an accident and rumours that a plane was involved are unfounded, said a police spokesman.

Witnesses said another two explosions followed the first at 0626 GMT and 0627 GMT.

Eyewitness Sam Matton, who lives half a mile from the depot, told BBC News: "The sky is sort of orange. The flames have got to be 60ft up in the air."

The M1 has been closed both ways between junctions 6a and 12.

The M10 motorway is closed in both directions between junction 1 and junction 7 as well as some artillery roads in Hemel Hempstead.

Luton airport is so far reported to be unaffected.

A spokeswoman said no flights have been affected by the explosion and the smoke was not affecting the flight path.

The area near the site has been evacuated, while police have advised residents living nearby to keep their windows and doors closed due to fumes.

Many houses have been damaged, with some reporting feeling effects from the explosion as far away as Oxfordshire, while it was heard in Surrey and Norfolk.

Eyewitnesses reported buckled front doors, cracked walls and blown-out windows.

The Buncefield depot is a major distribution terminal operated by Total and part-owned by Texaco, storing oil, petrol and well as kerosene which supplies airports across the region, including Heathrow and Luton.

It is also used by BP, Shell and British Pipeline.

"We are doing everything we can to support the emergency services and to bring the situation under control," said a Total spokesman.

'Out-of-control'

One eyewitness, Jonathan Barr, told the BBC he was working a night shift in the building next door to the fuel depot at the time of the blast.

He was sitting in his office "and the next minute I was on the floor and it was pitch black. I was thrown off my chair," he said.

He received cuts and bruises.

He said he and a colleague had to break a window to get out because the doors were buckled.

They got out of the front of the building and were taken to hospital by passing motorists.

Malcolm Stewart, who drives a tanker at the terminal, said there were 20 tanks on the site, each holding three million gallons of fuel.

BBC reporter Colin Campbell said: "There are huge fireballs gushing out of the fuel depot.

"Many people are standing by filming the scene on mobile phones. There are gigantic flames, it would be impossible to contain at the moment, it is out of control.

"It is a scene of utter devastation."

BBC correspondent Sinead Wilson, who lives in nearby St Albans said there was a huge plume of smoke covering the sky.

"There is a smell of gas, lots of fire engines, police cars in the area," she said.

"It looks to me as if the entire depot is under fire."

Dave Franklin told BBC News: "There was a massive loud bang which broke windows above us and to the right. The whole sky just turned orange and black."

Michael Vatty said: "The impression was that it was a clap of thunder, but as soon as we got up we saw the flames. We had the garage door blown in, the front door was also blown in."

(Took this from the bbc website)
 
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