Rangoon Oil Tanker Blast Kills 4, Injures 6

By Lawi Weng 5 February 2013

RANGOON — A blast and an ensuing fire destroyed two tankers carrying oil on Rangoon’s Hlaing River on Monday afternoon, killing four crew members and injuring six others, the Rangoon Fire Fighters Department said.

At the time of the accident the tankers were trying to dock at Myawaddy Trading Company, which is part of the Burmese military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited.

“Four people were killed; this is the number that we know. There are six people who were wounded; three people of them are in serious condition in the hospital,” a Rangoon Region Fire Fighters Department official told a visiting reporter on Tuesday.

The official, who declined to be named as he was not authorized to talk to the media, said the wounded were being treated at Rangoon General Hospital.

One of the tankers was docking at the jetty of Myawaddy Trading Company terrain when an explosion occurred on board causing a fire to spread. A second vessel, docked beside it, also caught fire.

It remains unclear what caused the explosion.

Soon after, company workers on the shore pushed the burning vessels onto the main river, while some of dead and injured crew members were still on board, according to a crewman, who was waiting outside the company premises.

“They were very brutal because they pushed tankers to the river after the fire and the blast. This is why the tankers were destroyed,” said the man, who declined to be named.

Later, firefighters rescued some of the men from the burning vessels and tried in vain to stop the fires.

Workers ashore had pushed the boats away in order to prevent fire from spreading to the industrial area, where the company has oil storage facilities and large piles of timber. Some timber caught fire but it did not spread across the premises.

The first vessel to catch fire sank into the river at around 5 pm on Monday. On Tuesday morning, the burned-out hull of the second tanker was still adrift on the Hlaing River.

The Myawaddy Trading Company’s industrial area was closed off from the public and two ambulances were seen entering the premises on Tuesday morning. Company representatives were not immediately available for comment.