People, Environment

Call for Compensation Following Petrochem Blaze

Call for Compensation Following Petrochem BlazeCall for Compensation Following Petrochem Blaze

A senior advisor to the Department of Environment chief, Massoumeh Ebtekar, has called on those responsible to cover the environmental cost of a recent fire that broke out at a major petrochemical complex in the southwestern city of Bandar Mahshahr, Khuzestan Province.

On July 6, the fire in Mahshahr broke out on Wednesday due to a technical problem that led to the leakage of paraxylene, a highly flammable chemical.

The fire, which started last Wednesday, was initially contained the following day, but a second fire erupted at one of the complex’s main storage units. Around 20,000 tons of fuel burned, as firefighters sprayed foam on the unit’s surface to cool down the facility and prevent it from burning down completely or worse, exploding.

While there were no casualties, preliminary estimates put the financial cost of the incident at more than $200 million, IRNA reported.

Nonetheless, Esmaeil Kahrom, the DOE advisor, said the environmental costs of the fire are “immeasurable”.

Although Oil Ministry officials, such as its deputy head of Health and Safety Executive Office, Mohammad Taqi Jafarzadeh, claimed that the incident had no environmental impact, Kahrom says such a claim is dishonest.

“I wonder how they can ignore the columns of toxic smoke that spewed from the complex; smoke that was the result of tons of petrochemical products burning,” he was quoted as saying by ISNA.

“Although the thick black smoke dispersed within a day or two, it still had enough time to exert its impact on the environment and people’s health.”

The cause of the fire is still unknown, but it was likely caused by the leakage of paraxylene. Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh has said a “technical problem” likely led to the incident.

Besides “gross carelessness in managing industrial units”, a lack of high-technology equipment in Iran due to years of international sanctions against Iran contributes to these “technical problems”, Kahrom said.

“I don’t deny Iran has had little or no access to state-of-the-art technology during the sanctions regime. Yet, the country’s available budget has not been spent properly to help address weaknesses in industrial complexes.”

Insisting on the ministry paying compensation for accidents like this, which are caused by human negligence, Kahrom said, “Those responsible for harming the environment must be held accountable and pay appropriate fines.”