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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 October 2007, 19:26 GMT
Fire crews tackle refinery blaze
Picture from Tony Jarvis

Firefighters say they have put out an oil refinery blaze sparked after an explosion which shook homes up to 14 miles away.

Crews were called to the Petroplus Coryton refinery, near Stanford le Hope, Essex, at about 1130 GMT.

Essex Fire Service said the blaze began on the ground floor of a tower and sent flames 100ft (30.5m) up the column.

The service said foam was used to bring it under control and a search of the area confirmed no one had been hurt.

Ten fire appliances and seven special units were called to the refinery which lies 30 miles (48km) from London, along the Thames Estuary.

Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive visited the site to carry out routine checks on Tuesday - the day before the fire.

An HSE spokesman said the checks were not directly linked to the area where the fire broke out.

At the height of the blaze, a huge column of smoke could be seen from about 20 miles away.

Firefighters tackling refinery fire

Marion Coleman, who lives about 14 miles (22km) away on Canvey Island, told BBC Essex: "There was a massive explosion.

"Our house shook, all the windows rattled and there were flames rising to the height of the chimneys at Coryton.

"Black smoke was billowing up into the sky."

'No petrol shortages'

Ray Howard is a member of Castle Point Borough Council which covers Canvey Island, Benfleet, Thundersley and Hadleigh, and lives nearby.

"Some almighty explosion occurred, it shook my house," he said.

"The next thing, all I saw was huge flames and smoke coming from the refinery."

Essex chief fire officer Mike Hardingham said shortly after 1500 GMT that the fire was "under control and is unlikely to develop further".

"The process of bringing the incident to a conclusion is likely to take some time," he said.

"The refinery is a complex place and a number of areas are required to be shut down and managed in sequence to enable the situation to be restored to normal."

Picture of fire from Lister Appleton
Black smoke could be seen rising up. Picture by Lister Appleton

The Swiss oil company Petroplus bought the Coryton Refinery from BP in May 2007.

The site is responsible for loading about 700 tankers a day to meet 22% of the UK's forecourt demand.

Jon Barden, refinery manager, said: "The rest of the refinery is running normally and we'll work with our people to ensure normal production is resumed as soon as possible.

"There will be no shortages, we can maintain the deliveries that we plan to our customers."

The complex, which was originally commissioned in 1953, has a refining capacity of 10 million tonnes a year.

Map and image of refinery

Oil refinery fire: Your pictures
31 Oct 07 |  In Pictures

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