Egypt fires raise questions about safety at industrial sites

Black smoke rises from oil containers as fire-fighters try to extinguish a fire that broke out at the al-Nasr Petroleum Company oil depot in Suez, Egypt. [Stringer/Reuters]

Black smoke rises from oil containers as fire-fighters try to extinguish a fire that broke out at the al-Nasr Petroleum Company oil depot in Suez, Egypt. [Stringer/Reuters]

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A rash of serious fires throughout Egypt has raised questions about security at industrial and commercial sites around the country, observers say.

The largest fire broke out Saturday (April 14th) at al-Nasr Petroleum Company (NPC) oil depot in the city of Suez. It raged four days before it was completely contained on Tuesday.

One person died and dozens suffered burn injuries, AFP reported.

Abdullah Ghorab, Egypt's petroleum and mineral resources minister, said during a press conference Tuesday that the real causes of the fire will be known after a thorough investigation, Egypt's Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.

Retired Maj. Gen. Omar Abdel Rahman, a security specialist, said other recent incidents include a large agricultural fire in Siwa that consumed 7,000 square meters of farmland, a fire at a large petrochemical plant in the Tenth of Ramadan area, a fire in a residential area in Minya that completely destroyed a gas station, and fires at two branches of the Tawhid & Nour department store in Cairo.

"Security forces developed a new deployment plan to include official buildings and some strategic areas and installations. It will be implemented soon in a co-ordinated effort between forces from the army, military police and the Egyptian police," Abdel Rahman said.

He said the recent fires underscore the urgent need to bring the concept of comprehensive industrial safety to life.

"As for [the technical side], the most important aspect is providing cameras and sensors for the purpose of monitoring, in addition to control devices to detect high temperatures. These devices would be linked to state-of-the-art warning systems that, in turn, would be connected to police, fire brigades and civil defense [units]," he said.

"The implementation of these steps is dependent upon full-scale modernization of the communication technology so that it is up-to-date and compliant with modern technology," he added.

"As for staff training, it is possible to rely on private security companies that are currently ubiquitous," Abdel Rahman said.

He added that it is important that staff is trained to use modern communication and telecommunication equipment, such as GPS and satellite control systems.

Suez fire under investigation

Sharif Ezzat, a team leader in the civil defence fire department in Suez, told Al-Shorfa the Suez fire is out, but its effects have raised questions about industrial security in Egypt.

"The Suez fire is technically out and does not pose a threat to the security of citizens," he said.

Ezzat said Adel Refaat, the Suez security chief, ordered the formation of a panel of professors from the Faculty of Petroleum Engineering to prepare a comprehensive technical report on the blaze.

Two inspection panels were also formed, as well as another made up of petroleum and scientific experts to prepare comprehensive reports on the incident and identify its causes, he said.

"There were no monitoring cameras around the oil tanks that burned, and the thermal sensors that were supposed to sound a fire alarm were out of order, which raises big question marks about industrial security, especially since the material that burned has a burning point of 96 degrees Celsius for 12 hours," Ezzat said.

Economic losses

The fires exacerbate Egypt's deteriorating economic situation and are detrimental to foreign investment, tourism, the stock market and industrial production, Dr. Mahmoud Morsi, economics professor at Helwan University, told Al-Shorfa.

"Preliminary estimates put the losses [from the Suez fire] at one billion pounds [165 million dollars], taking into consideration the selling price of the material that burned and [the damage to] oil installations, as well as the delay in unloading oil vessels, which were moved away from beaches in the vicinity of the fires [Zaitiyat port] and resulting fines and costs," Morsi said.

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    hayder

    2012-5-21

    It is very important to be cautious and to take the necessary precautions and possible measures that would protect the safety of the workers in the workplaces that may witness many accidents that can cause wounds or even death. Hence, it is extremely important for all employers to comply with the safety standards and laws to protect the health and life of the workers and shield them from the harms or dangers that may afflict them due to inattentiveness, mistakes, or accidents, which may be simple of complicated. Certainly, the Ministry of health and other health organizations are responsible for ensuring the compliance to these standards and the clinics also should provide recommendations and important instructions to the workers to protect themselves from the dangers of heat, fire, wounds, cuts, car accidents, fall of heavy objects or the similar accidents like the explosions or release of poisonous gases or even the skin diseases or inhalation of poisonous materials. Hence, the workers must get the real protection and the violators must be severely punished for neglecting the laws or failure to comply with the safety standards.

  • صلاح خالد

    2012-5-18

    Misr Petroleum Company in the early Egyptian petroleum companies, which possess such a package of certificates of quality management and environmental and occupational health and safety and the company's XI at the level of the Republic. If we take into account the geographical breadth of the company and which covers all areas of the Republic compared with other companies we will find that Misr petroleum over the uniqueness of this achievement oil for the first time in Egypt, which enabled it to activate the application of international standards and in different places and activities separated by hundreds of kilometers. Despite this progress, many environmental disasters took place in Egypt. For example, the associations of fishing in Suez accused the officials of the executive bodies of polluting the Gulf of Suez by threw millions of meters of contaminated water in the Gulf of Suez, which have been used in extinguishing the fires of tanks of Nasr Petroleum. The situation is that the Gulf of Suez faces a disaster of environmental pollution because of getting rid of the water that was used in extinguishing fires of Nasr Co., which was mixed with chemicals in the Gulf causing death of large quantities of fish.

  • حسن

    2012-5-1

    Women have been denied for many decades their rights in the workplace or the circumstances of their functions, in line with the principles of their religion and femininity, and were also deprived of the functions of the media and have been restricted in the practice of rituals in many institutions, government and non-governmental departments. But as far as education is concerned, Islam did not prevent women from getting an education, but made specific provisions for women when going out to achieve this right; when going out, they have to ensure that they do not excite the inherent instincts of men to preserve themselves, cover nakedness, commit to their clothing in public, not to mix with men and not be lenient while talking, and not to be alone with anyone on the pretext of being a fellow student, teacher or principal.

  • ليون

    2012-5-1

    The explosion that happened at the Nasr Company for Petroleum in the governorate of Suez was set, and also, the most important causes were corruption and neglect that created a major threat to the company, sparking panic among the citizens in all parts of the province, especially in the area surrounding the company like Al-safwa Towers, Kafr al-Ahmed Abdu al-Jadid, and Nasser Road where dozens of citizens fled from their homes in fear of a disaster and of the fire reaching their homes. An official at Suez indicated that the cause of the huge explosion and fire was an explosion in a tank within the compound where the fire started. A state of stagnation and paralysis took control of all industrial companies and government interests in Suez where the General Cabinet of the province and the Directorate of Education and a large number of service directorates in the province witnessed the absence of a large number of employees out of fear for their lives after the spread of rumors of the occurrence of an explosion at the company that might extend to all the neighboring residential areas. On the other hand, dozens of cars piled in front of gas stations and during the events, and officials of oil companies adjacent to the Nasr company for oil to raise the maximum degree of readiness and security alert inside their companies as they have dismissed all workers especially the Cooperative Association for Oil at the same time when dozens of cars crowded together in front of the oil reservoirs in a bid to take the private quota for distribution to stations in the cities of the Suez Canal. A large number of schools specific to the Suez district and adjacent to this company witnessed a standstill and paralysis, so it was necessary to provide the necessary precautions to avoid having these incidents occur frequently and consistently in Egyptian companies and installations of Petroleum.

  • سعيد شناوي

    2012-4-30

    Egyptian law developed strict procedures for the safety of facilities and installations, specifically for the Egyptian oil industry, in order to preserve the Egyptian economy because the insgtallations of petroleum are considered one of the important pillars on which the Egyptian economy stands and which generate a great return to Egypt and because of this a package of safety measures was prescribed by Egyptian law. The casual events that happened in one facility or another were only planned to harm the public’s interest as we have seen in Suez, and that casualty could be the first of its kind during the last period, but the laws set the offender under punishment that reaches as far as the death sentence in order to preserve the wealth of Egypt's petroleum and human resources.

  • احمد عبد الرزاق

    2012-4-30

    That security is the base of success in any work and in order to avoid accidents and injuries, we must take the pretext of security and safety on one hand and maintain manpower on the other hand, and also maintain the existing integrity of the facility and all its components and in order to cross this stage safely, we must obey the following rules: A system to compensate workers of industrial and technical projects: this is a regulatory modification of labor relations between employer and workers, even if limited in scope. Medical care and expenses: The owner of the institution or company has to provide health insurance for all employees and their children in order to ensure their safety and health and for prevention of disease and disability. Compensation for disability or death: Development of regulations to ensure the continuation of life for the families of employees when exposed to any harm and limiting working hours, and rest periods and leaves so that the worker works in line with the laws and has psychological relief, in addition to maintaining the health and comfort of workers and improving physical, psychological, and entertainment conditions of the worker and his family, taking into account the provision of adequate housing or convenient transportation, which maintains the safety of workers and saves time and effort. Also, government inspection organized by the Egyptian law and setting up the controls for the safety of the facility under the government and civil supervision committees periodically at synchronized intervals, and setting up a system for providing and saving, and the creation of amenities and entertainment for them as required by the Ministry of Labor to provide places for the sale of food and drinks that they need, the establishment of sports facilities and recreational places within the premises, the provision of schools for the education of the workers' children, construction of mosques, and the most important requirements are insurance of the facility or institution and provision of all means of safety against fire in order to preserve the lives of workers. Egyptian law provided the bases that should be available to the security of facilities, as well as compensation for work injuries, and gave the right to the worker in maintaining safety.

  • العربي

    2012-4-27

    Such accidents took place in many oil companies and the last one was in the Suez Oil Company, which left many victims among the workers in the company, which shows the peak of neglect in compliance with the safety standards. This shows the belittlement of the human souls, which are so cheap. These companies make huge profits, but they refuse to develop themselves. If we entered any oil company in Egypt, we would find that the machines are very old and shabby in most of the companies, as result of the neglect of the former government and the former regime, which looted the money of the Egyptians and did not pay any attention to the safety criteria in these companies, which have been operating for decades. They are among the most important national oil companies that produce oil, that is considered one of the cornerstones of the Egyptian economy. However, unfortunately there are no plans to develop such companies and facilities, despite the fact that any accident in these companies would be a disaster. The problem is that most of the oil facilities in Egypt are very old and they need renovation based on advanced technology to manage these companies, which also must comply with the government safety standards and procedures. The government, in cooperation with the companies, must earmark certain funds pay for specialized companies irrespective of the cost. This is necessary in order to protect this national wealth represented in these large national companies, which make real profits. The machines and equipment need maintenance to avoid accidents. The systems and staffs of oil companies in Egypt need to be restructured and retained. Most of the workers in these companies do not receive good training, and this is the cause of the worst disasters that take place because of human error. The causes of the fire in the oil company in Suez include the unmaintained old equipment. The disaster continued for more than one day until the firefighters succeeded in extinguishing the fire after it caused heavy human and financial losses. There is a necessity for careful study in order to find suitable solutions and develop the security and safety measures to avoid disasters in the future.

  • صبحي عبد النور

    2012-4-27

    Many accidents took place in the workplaces because of failure to take the necessary security and safety measures, particularly in dangerous factories such as the factories of iron and steel. In such factories, the rate of accidents is high and many workers died or lost some of their limbs or senses because of these accidents, which take place as a result of neglect, which is the main cause of workplace accidents. Most of the owners of these factories do not provide the workers with suitable protective clothing and equipment that limit the number of accidents significantly. Also, most of the factories have very old machines that are not maintained properly, which means more industrial accidents and the only victim is the simple worker. The workers suffer from many accidents in the factories that do not comply with the industrial safety standards. They do not receive proper care when they fall as victims, but they may even be fired from their work. The owners of the victims sell their consciences, because all they care about is their works and businesses and let the rest of the world go to hell, because of the lack of control on the part of the concerned authorities which must verify compliance with the safety standards in these factories.

  • عبداللطيف لطفى

    2012-4-19

    God bless you all! Our country will remain the best, because we will not have any worse eras than the former one, which was characterized by tyranny and corruption. Mubarak's name is always accompanied by corruption.