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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Oct. 10)

Editorials from Korean Dailies 07:01 October 10, 2018

Explosion in Goyang
Measures needed to ensure safety of oil storage tanks

The police announced Tuesday the results of their investigation into a massive fire at an oil storage tank in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province on Oct. 7. The tank exploded and caught fire allegedly after a sky lantern, which is like a mini hot-air balloon, set fire to nearby grass.

According to a press briefing by Goyang Police Chief Kang Shin-gul, a sky lantern launched by a foreign male was the cause of the explosion of the oil tank. The police detained a 27-year-old from Sri Lanka who released the sky lantern from a nearby construction site about a kilometer from the facility. The police suspect the fire was started when the lantern ignited grass near the oil tank. CCTV footage showed the fire started after the lantern landed on the grass. It is suspected a fire spark entered the ventilation system of the oil tank, leading to the massive explosion.

Smoke was seen as far as southeastern Seoul, which caused much concern for citizens within and outside Goyang over the weekend. No one was hurt and the blaze was contained by early Monday morning after burning for 17 hours. It is also a huge relief that the blaze did not spread to the 13 other oil tanks located in the facility, which hold oil to be transported to gas stations in some parts of Seoul and northern Gyeonggi Province. But it was frightening to think what might have happened if the fire had not been contained swiftly. If it had spread to other tanks, it could have caused an enormous amount of damage.

Although there were no casualties, the accident has highlighted the need for reinforcing safety measures at oil storage facilities. It is hard to believe such a huge explosion was triggered by a grass fire. It is highly alarming that the oil storage facility was vulnerable enough to explode due to a fire spark from a sky lantern. Weak management of the site by the Daehan Oil Pipeline Corporation is also blamed for the accident. It took about 18 minutes after the grass started to smoke before the tank exploded, but no one knew about the fire during that time which could have been used to prevent the explosion. It is urgent to equip such facilities with better fire detectors.

To prevent future accidents, the authorities need to check similar facilities in other parts of the country, such as Pangyo in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, and Daejeon, among others.


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