Inquiry opens into oil blast
AN inquiry into the cause of the huge Buncefield fuel depot blast in December is underway and an independent chairman has now been appointed to head the investigation. The Health and Safety Commission (HSC) announced that Lord Newton of Braintree will be
AN inquiry into the cause of the huge Buncefield fuel depot blast in December is underway and an independent chairman has now been appointed to head the investigation. The Health and Safety Commission (HSC) announced that Lord Newton of Braintree will be in charge of the board supervising the probe into the largest fire in peacetime Europe. The explosion ripped apart the Hemel Hempstead fuel depot, which borders Redbourn, as well as many office buildings and nearby houses. A massive black cloud hung in the air above the site for several days and spread over much of the district. Lord Newton a former Tory MP and Leader of the House of Commons, said: "The HSCs decision to establish an investigation board was a significant move and highlights the severity of the incident and the degree of concern for people living close to the Buncefield site and to the wider industry. The investigation will be carried out thoroughly, objectively and concluded in a timely manner with its findings made public as soon as possible, subject to legal considerations." The investigation board will report to both the HSC and the Environment Agency. There will be two other independent members of the board - Professor Dougal Drysdale, a leading authority on fire safety engineering, and Dr Peter Baxter, a consultant physician in occupational and environmental medicine. The three other members are from the Health and Safety Executive, who enforce the regulations of the HSC, and the Environment Agency. A spokesperson for the HSE said they were expecting an interim report into the fire within the next few weeks. l A donation of £1,000 is to be made by St Albans District Council to a fund set up by the Mayor of Dacorum following the Buncefield blast. The Mayor's Recovery Fund is open to anyone who lives or works within the blast zone to apply for assistance if they have suffered loss following the incident which is not covered by other payments. Delighted The Mayor of St Albans, Cllr Malcolm MacMillan, said: "I am delighted the council agreed to match the funds of Dacorum and to indicate that we will donate more if they require more. "However, in the meantime I urge local people to make their own contribution to our neighbours who are suffering serious hardship." So far the recovery fund has received 64 applications for help from people affected, mainly those who had no insurance cover for their property or are unemployed as a result of the fire and self-employed people such as taxi drivers whose income comes largely from fares between the railway station and the Hemel Hempstead industrial area. Anyone wishing to make a donation should send a cheque payable to DCT Mayor's Recovery Fund , c/o Mayor's Office, Dacorum Borough Council, Marlowes, Hemel Hempstead, Herts HP1 1HH.