London’s fire 'under control'

A blaze reignited at the Buncefield oil depot north of London on Wednesday but firefighters said they were allowing it to burn itself out to prevent the risk of explosion.Fire crews have worked day and night to quench the three-day inferno at the depot near the town of Hemel Hempstead that sent a pall of black smoke high into the sky, casting a long shadow across a swathe of southern England.

The blaze was finally extinguished on Tuesday after 180 firefighters pumped more than 15 million liters of water and a quarter of a million liters of foam concentrate on to the flames.Hertfordshire Deputy Chief Fire Officer Mark Yates told Sky News that Wednesday's fire was caused by petroleum from one storage tank burning under controlled conditions to prevent the build up of potentially explosive petrol fumes.

"We're allowing it to burn out under control, so there is no explosion risk, the community is in safety and there'll be no further damage," he said.Police advised people living near the depot to stay inside and keep their doors and windows closed while smoke continued to belch from the fire.

Many children in Hemel Hempstead were due to return to school on Wednesday for the first time since the fire began shortly before dawn on Sunday.Schools within a 10 mile (17 km) radius of the depot had been closed on Monday and Tuesday and some 2,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes.

Many houses suffered damage and had windows blown out from the force of a number of explosions at the start of the depot blaze on Sunday morning.

Fire unions have criticized the preparedness of the local fire brigade to deal with the biggest peacetime blaze in Europe, saying it had no specialist foam-spraying vehicles, stocks of foam or officers trained to tackle a major oil fire.

But Hertfordshire councilor David Lloyd told BBC radio the union's criticism was inaccurate."When you have got a fire which is of this nature and size, what you expect to do is to use the whole of the country's brigades rather than just the local one," said Lloyd, the county's executive member for community safety."We have managed not to have any casualties amongst our fire crew. And the fact that there were no deaths and very few casualties is remarkable."Local fire chief Roy Wilsher has said the claims by the Fire Brigades Union were "utter nonsense", reports Reuters. Photo:AP I.L.

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