Catastrophe averted, oil racket busted

| 22 July 2002 23:28 IST

While a major catastrophe being averted, sudden blasts and catching fire near oil storage tanks in the port town of Vasco has unearthed a pilferage racket, supposedly run in connivance with the concerned officials of the port and oil authorities in Goa.

Fortunately, the fire was brought under control immediately, failing which the whole port town would have been converted into ashes as not less than 30 huge oil storage tanks are situated between the harbour and the tiny town of Vasco.

The whole port town was emptied within 15 minutes today morning when people heard series of blasts followed by fire near the oil tanks. Fearing bursting of oil tanks, situated in the town, people started running helter skelter.

The fire at three places between the oil ship that was unloading the high grade oil and the Indian Oil Corporation was put off by summoning almost 10 fire tenders from all over the state. "If not, the ship as well as the oil tanks could also catch fire", said I D Shukla, the South Goa SP.

While investigating into the cause of the fire, the police however found a PVC pipeline with an illegally attached safety valve from a midpoint of the main downloading pipeline that was heading on the road outside the compound wall of the Mormugao Port Trust.

While filing case of theft, arson, and even attempt to murder against unknown persons, the police have also arrested one Longuinho Joseph Fernandes, in whose house some oil cans and gauging equipment was found across the road, where the illegally tapped pipe line ends.

"It cannot be operated without connivance of the concerned officials, including the IOC, the MPT and the CISF that is looking after the security services", states Shukla. He suspects that the pilferage racket is on for over a year.

The police were alerted last midnight when the area started smelling of oil, but the supervisory staff claimed that it was being taken care of by flushing water. The truth however came to light when sudden blasts caught fire in three places in the morning.

The illegally laid down PVC pipeline with a diameter of around 2.5 inches runs through under two roads and even a railway track. As one electric pole is also installed here on its way, the police suspect that the short circuit could be the cause of the fire.

Arun Singh, the CISF assistant commandant, is also personally probing into any security lapses on their part. The police however are certain that the whole illegal operation cannot take place without the security personnel, the MPT as well as IOC officials conspiring.

Besides the IOC, the port town also contains storage tanks belonging to the HP and the BP. A long-pending proposal to shift all the tanks on a plateau outside the port town is still under consideration.

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