Over 300 million liters of refined and highly inflammable fuel and liguefied gas are stored in the Pandacan depot that has been operating since 1921 without a buffer, as required under international safety rules, to insulate residents nearby from danger.
Under international standards, a buffer of one kilometer is usually acceptable to allow the operation of an oil depot within an industrial and residential area. The oil depot is just 100 meters from surrounding residential areas.
Dr. Aidan Taskar Lynch, executive director of the Philippine Society of Emergency and Medical Technology, said if a disaster occurs in the Pandacan oil depot which hosts the facilities of the three big oil companies Petron Corp., Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. and Chevron Corp., the blast radius of an explosion would be at least one and a half kilometers and the resulting fire could reach a radius of 10 kilometers or as far as Quezon City and Pasay City.
Dr. Lynch, who designed some of the master plans for disaster response of oil depots in Saudi Arabia and other countries, cited the accident in Mexico City on Nov. 19, 1984 where a small liquid gas storage facility accidentally exploded, instantly killing 334 persons, injuring 7,000, and rendering 65,000 others homeless. The closest resident to the facility in Mexico was 150 meters.
Less than a month later, a chemical plant in Bhopal, India, situated in a densely populated area, caught fire and exploded, killing 3,849 persons.
The storage facilities of Shell and Petron are surrounded by four barangays with an approximate population of 11,000 and many of them live as close as 25 meters to the depot.
“I saw barbecue stands as close as 10 meters to the gate. Children are playing everywhere, unaware of the danger to their lives. I saw other horrifying things that could not be accepted anywhere else in the world,” said Lynch, who visited the area.
According to him, there are highly volatile substances in the Pandacan depot like fuel, liquid gas, diesel, kerosene, and aviation gas that don’t just go up but flow out, create a sea of fire and destroy everything along its path.–Daily Tribune