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Workers run for their lives in Petrotrin fire

By Keino Swamber South Bureau

A FIRE at the Petrotrin Refinery in Pointe-a-Pierre yesterday resulted in workers having to run for their lives.

The fire, which started shortly before 2 p.m. at the area known as the "tank farm" is said to have lasted less than ten minutes as a valve to one of the flare stacks, which is used to burn off excess gas, was quickly shut off. There were no injuries.

One worker, 24-year-old Woldelul Antoine of Vistabella, who is employed on contract as a rigger and pipe-fitter, told the Express that he was in the process of rigging some pipes when he suddenly felt a heat on his neck.

"The rain was falling at the time," Antoine said.

"I turned around and saw some high flames from one of the flares. So some of us ran a distance and stopped and watched. The flame was getting higher and higher and it was falling like lava and melting the pipe itself."

Antoine said the fire seemed to die down for a while but upon looking on the ground, saw a ring of flames about 40 feet wide.

"It just got higher and higher till the flare melt and went straight down to the ground. Everybody panicked.

"It was like five seconds in hell. It looked like lava falling so I had to increase in speed. I didn't think about anything except running and getting away."

Asked whether he would be returning to work after the experience, Antoine said he and others would be awaiting instructions before going back into the refinery next week.

He said as part of their safety training, workers were taught to head to a muster point whenever an emergency arose.

"We couldn't do that because the position we were working in, we would have been running into the fire if we tried to get to the muster point. Our common send had to work then. This was one day we had to break the rule of no running in the refinery. We had to run."

Another worker, Marcelline Roberts, 24, of Marabella, said he felt a heat on his back while working.

"It wasn't a nice experience," Roberts said.

"When I turned around I saw a big flame coming towards us so we had no other choice but to run.

"It was unbelievable. I never really see it like that. It was like a volcano."

Roberts said he was satisfied with the response of the fire officers from Petrotrin and the Mon Repos Southern Divisional Headquarters.

Calls to Petrotrin's Corporate Communications Department went unanswered.

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