Gas cylinder shops are set up near the depots
Locals living near oil depots fear that a major fire might break out because of the gas cylinder stores situated near the Meghna, Padma, Jamuna Petroleum Limited sites, in Srimangal.
Depot Superintendent of Padma Petroleum Limited Md Iqbal Hossain said: "A few days ago, the executive magistrate of the district administration ordered all the shops near the depots to move a kilometre away. Also, we have already told them, many times, to move their shops."
"A shop named Zahir Traders—near our depot—caught fire a month ago, and the flames had to be doused by fire extinguisher. We cannot pressure them without the help of the administration, even if we want to.
He said they have made sure that the top authorities are aware of the situation. He believes these sorts of shops near the depots are a danger as they do not have the adequate equipment to extinguish fire.
It is said that numerous containers of fuel oil are stored in the Srimangal railway station's yard on the Sylhet-Chittagong-Dhaka rail route—to be transported—and the three petroleum depots are situated just next to that.
There are also several shops in the market, near the depot, that sell LP Gas-filled cylinders, and there are shops that have oil in open containers at the market.
The Padma Oil Company depot is situated just 20 or 30 yards away from Meghna Oil Limited, and close to the boundary of these depots are shops that keep oil in open containers, are stores that sell cigarettes and betel leaves, restaurants, and a welding factory.
Locals and the depots' staff are concerned and anxious that if a fire occurs at any of the depots, the whole city could ignite into an inferno.
A gas cylinder has exploded before; however, no damage occurred as the depot staff took prompt measures to douse the fire. It was close call for the three depots that are positioned next to each other.
Although, the LP Gas manufacturing company's dealers have obtained requisite licenses from the Department of Explosives—to trade, fill, and transport these cylinders—the small-time retailers do not seem to follow these rules.
These licenses are obtained and renewed based on the terms and conditions outlined in the LPG Rules 2004 of the Explosive Act, 1884.
Section 2 article 69 of the Rules explains that LPG cannot be stored without their license.
According to the rules, a license is not required for 10 gas cylinders to be stored. In other words, licenses need to be obtained if more than 10 cylinders are stored.
Article 71 of the same section explains that sufficient fire protection equipment must be set up in the reserves or warehouses to avoid accidents.
While the sellers obtain general trade license for business, they do not obtain the required certificates to acquire over 10 cylinders, or adequate fire extinguishing equipment, in the cylinder reserves.
According to depot sources, the three depots contain: 866,000 litres of petrol, 985,000 litres of octane, 1,927,000 litres of diesel, and 1,390,000 litres of kerosene. However, fuel oils are not always available and depend on the capacity of the reserves.
One of the major conditions of LG gas cylinder dealerships is that warehouses and showrooms for LP gas cylinders must be at least a kilometre away from depots.
All the licenses issued for Srimangal upazila have been addressed to Habiganj Road, which is a kilometre away from the oil depot.
However, dealer companies—such as National Gas Trading, Krishnachura Enterprise, Fatema Traders and the Safi and Brothers—are illegally running their business near the gate of the Meghna depot.
Apart from them, companies—such as Alam Traders, Amiyenshu Das, Kailash Prasad Teli, Aziz Enterprises, Gawsia-Bashariya Trading, Kuheli Enterprise, Kamal Traders, Noorjahan Gas Korea Gas House, Korea Enterprise—have been accused of supplying gas to the aforementioned companies, who then send the cylinders to: Sylhet, Comilla, Chittagong, and many other places.
The gas-filled cylinders are then loaded onto trucks, vertically, near the Meghna depot gate.
LP gas cylinder and oil businessman Md Mukit Miah requested nothing be written regarding this matter as it has been discussed with police and business administration.
Another businessman said: "We are doing business near the depot as we have not been able to profits enough outside the city. We keep 10-to-12 gas-filled cylinders on display, the rest are stored in warehouses; this is so that, if any sudden explosion occurs, no one comes to harm."
Responding to queries, the businessmen said the law requires that oil be brought from the depot after depositing the Treasury invoice, but they bring oil from the Meghna depot all day and submit invoices in the afternoon.
Although it violates the law, they said the depot superintendent has given them that opportunity.
Senior Sales Officer of Meghna Petroleum's Sylhet unit Md Anwar Hossain said: "The depot superintendent is responsible for the security of the depot. If he feels there is a shortage of security anywhere at the depot, he can inform to the top authorities."
According to the depot superintendent of Meghna and Jamuna Oil Company Ltd, the dealers do not follow the rules and guidelines regarding the LP gas cylinder storage. They do not listen even though they have been requested to do so many times.
The correspondent found that retailers—such as Shapla Enterprise, Sakhina Traders, National Gas Trading, TNT Enterprise, JS Enterprise, Helal Store of Ehsan Market—in the Bhanugachh area in Srimangal city, are storing LD gas cylinders in a warehouse at Srimangal Muktijoddha Krishi O Nursery Prokolpo Market, and selling them.
Srimangal Fire Service and Civil Defence Station Officer Md Azizul Islam Rajan said: "The mobile court conducted a drive in the shops near the depot, taking the executive magistrate with them. They do have licences for explosives and gas cylinders, which say that they can do their business at the address that they have listed in the license. "
He said he does not know whether they need to be a kilometre away. Should an incident occur, the amount of fire-extinguishing equipment is not enough to extinguish one. He said he will take the matter to the top authorities.
Srimangal Upazila Nirbahi Officer Md Nazrul Islam said: "I have inspected the adjoining areas surrounding the depot. I have also talked to the senior authorities to remove these shops."
Moulvibazar Acting Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Rukan Uddin said: "I have been looking into the matter. Since I am the acting deputy commissioner, I was not aware of the matter. "