Tuas fire: Half of plant affected, says Eco Special Waste Management CEO

Lee Li Ying Channel NewsAsia 23 Feb 17;

SINGAPORE: About half of Eco Special Waste Management's plant in Tuas was affected by the blaze on Thursday morning (Feb 23), CEO Rick Reidinger told Channel NewsAsia.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force was alerted at 6.15am of the fire and sent 200 firefighters to quell the blaze, which it said involved chemical waste and flammable materials. It took four hours to be put out and one firefighter was sent to hospital for heat exhaustion, but no other casualties were reported, it added.

Mr Reidinger said the company has about 300 employees and "20 to 30" of them were likely in the plant when the fire broke out, but he confirmed that no one was hurt in the blaze.

He added the other half of the plant was "undamaged" and hoped that it can be up "within the next few days to a week".

The company is currently investigating the cause of the fire, but it said there were at least "S$5 million to S$10 million worth of fire safety features in the plant".

"We have a special store for hazardous waste because we are aware it's flammable. We had a segmented storage area separated by firewalls, with sprinklers and other fire protection features like foam, and special drainage features," he said.

Eco Special Waste Management's director, Amy Liu, who was also at the incident site, told Channel NewsAsia that it has about 500 clients, and to minimise business disruptions, is now in talks with five other companies to help service these clients.

The company's plant had previously caught fire in May 2012 but the fire was contained in the incinerator and put out in 30 minutes by four fire engines, according to past reports.

- CNA/kk



Tuas blaze: Fire was 'big like a volcano', says eyewitness
Channel NewsAsia 23 Feb 17;

SINGAPORE: Security officer Subramaniam Krishnan did not expect to witness a fire the size of a "volcano" when he got to work on Thursday morning (Feb 23).

Mr Subramaniam, who works at a factory close to the scene of the fire at a waste management plant, said he was having coffee when he heard two loud sounds. At first, he did not think anything was unusual as he often hears similar sounds from the stacking of containers at a yard next door.

It was the third explosion that caught his attention.

"The third sound was quite different from the first. It's like a bomb sound," he told Channel NewsAsia. "I could feel tremors."

Mr Subramaniam then received a call from one of his security officers, who asked if he heard the sounds as well.

"We rushed to the fourth floor, the rooftop. I saw it was a big fire ... Then I did a quick video recording," Mr Subramaniam recounted. "My officers, they quickly evacuated our cleaners. Some of the staff who arrived in the morning, we got them out."

About nine people were evacuated from Mr Subramaniam's workplace between 6.30am and 6.45am, he said.

The security officer said he "quietly panicked" when he saw the size of the fire from the rooftop of his workplace. "Suddenly, at the canal, there was a big sound. A loud bang. Suddenly the fire caught up, I don't know where the fire came from, suddenly I could see the fire, so big like a volcano," he said. "That made me a bit panicked. So I quickly rushed down to the ground floor."

Channel NewsAsia understands that the fire had spread to nearby areas through canals.

Mr Subramaniam said he could "feel the heat" of the blaze when recording a video of the incident, and that there was a toxic smell.

"The fire was burning all the way. Very scary. The trees (were) confirmed burnt, the grass (was) all burnt," he said, adding that he also saw smoke emitting from manholes in the area.

"This is a kind of fire I have never seen," the security officer said. "A few things (have) happened in the Tuas area, this is the biggest as (far as) I know - very scary."

It took 200 firefighters from the Singapore Civil Defence Force four hours to extinguish the blaze. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

- CNA/dl


Tuas fire: Air quality in normal range, says NEA
Channel NewsAsia 24 Feb 17;

SINGAPORE: The air quality in the vicinity of the Tuas chemical plant that caught fire is within the normal range, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Friday (Feb 24), noting that people who were nearby at the time of the fire had noticed a chemical odour coming from the plant.

During the fire, the chemicals that were stored in the plant were contaminated with waste, including solvents, oil sludge and other industrial waste, said an NEA spokesperson in response to queries from Channel NewsAsia. She added that the waste may have been "volatised" when burnt at a high temperature.

"However, they are transient and become quickly diluted as they disperse in the air and are unlikely to be a cause of concern."

NEA added that air quality measurements taken in the vicinity of the plant during the fire showed that the air quality was within the normal range.

In addition, the air quality records from NEA’s monitoring stations in Tuas and Jurong showed that the air quality was in the normal range, the agency said.

Since the fire, air quality measurements taken in the vicinity and at the monitoring stations have remained in the normal range. The agency added that its officers will continue to monitor the site and its vicinity.

Water samples taken from drains in the vicinity had pH readings between 5 and 7, which is slightly below the normal range, NEA said.

Separately, water agency PUB told Channel NewsAsia that its officers inspected nearby sewers and found them to be operating normally. They also collected samples of used water from the sewers for analysis.

PUB added that preliminary checks showed that there was some damage to the drain walls and railings of a section of the outlet drain along Tuas South Avenue 7, and that repair work would be scheduled after a more detailed assessment.

An eyewitness told Channel NewsAsia that he saw the fire spread through a canal.

It took 200 firefighters four hours to put out the massive blaze on Thursday.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force is still investigating the cause of the fire.

NEA added that it is working closely with the company - Eco Special Waste Management - as well as other Government agencies to review the company’s processes and safety procedures.

The fire damaged most of the single-storey buildings on the premises, causing some of them to partially collapse, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) told Channel NewsAsia, after carrying out a structural inspection of the plant.

It added that the fire was confined to the premises at 23 Tuas View Circuit and did not affect the adjacent premises, which the company also occupies.

BCA has directed the company to appoint a professional engineer to assess the structural condition of the buildings and make recommendations for rectification work.

The premises are required to be closed until the rectification work has been completed.

- CNA/dt

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