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.
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.
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.