A large oil storage tank exploded for unknown reasons in Goyang, northwest of Seoul on Sunday, sparking a massive fire that was brought under control after 17 hours.
The tank, owned by the state-run Daehan Oil Pipeline Corporation, burst into flames at around 11 a.m. Sunday, releasing fumes and toxic gas.
The tank contained about four-and-a-half million tons of gasoline, more than half of which burned. Firefighters completely put out the fire at around 4 a.m. Monday after transferring the remaining gasoline to another tank. There were no casualties, but a thick belt of black smoke could be seen from kilometers away.
Goyang police will conduct a joint inspection of the site on Monday afternoon along with the National Forensic Service, fire authorities, the Korea Gas Safety Corporation and the Korea Electrical Safety Corporation.
Residents in western Seoul and Goyang were advised to stay indoors and keep their windows closed Sunday as a massive blaze that erupted at a large oil storage facility in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, was reported to be releasing toxic fumes.
A text message warning of toxic fumes was sent to Seoul residents at about 6:30 p.m. The blaze was so large that those who live outside of Goyang, including those who live in Seoul and Gimpo, could see thick, black smoke in the sky during the day.
Experts say many compounds of smoke from fires can be highly toxic, and smoke inhalation can quickly lead to incapacitation and the loss of consciousness.
Authorities believe that the fire started after one of the oil tanks at the facility exploded for reasons yet unknown. At least two explosions may have taken place Sunday, they added, one at 10:56 a.m., and the other around noon.
At about 5 p.m., authorities said the remaining oil inside the tank must be extracted to get the blaze under control, and that the process may take an additional seven hours.
The tank that is believed to have caused the initial fire contained some 4.4 million liters of gasoline, authorities said. The facility is thought to have a total of 14 oil tanks, including the one engulfed in flames.
The oil storage facility is operated by Daehan Oil Pipeline Corp., a private oil pipeline company that provides construction maintenance, repair, operation and training services for oil pipelines. The firm also engages in oil product transportation and storage.
“We are trying our best so that the fire does not spread to other oil tanks at the facility,” said an official from the Gyeonggi Northern Fire and Disaster Headquarters earlier in the day.
Some 300 firefighters, 111 fire trucks and three helicopters were dispatched to the site to extinguish the flames throughout Sunday.
“We heard from Goyang residents that they heard a thundering noise near the oil storage facility,” said the official from the Gyeonggi Northern Fire and Disaster Headquarters.
“We still don’t know what exactly caused the fire. An investigation will be launched once the blaze is fully under control.”