Thursday 23rd June, 2005


Fuel tanker explodes off Chag

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Above: Coast Guard officers patrol the area where the fuel tanker Tradewind Sunrise exploded.

Below: Crew members on a tug look at the damage caused by an explosion on Tradewind Sunrise, the fuel tanker that caught fire off the coast of Chaguaramas yesterday.

Photos: Andrea de Silva

By Indarjit Seuraj

As the search continues today for four people following an explosion on a fuel tanker a few hundred metres off the Chaguaramas coast, police and the Coast Guard are yet to release the identities of two men who died in the accident.

According to reports, at around 2.45 pm welding repairs—“hotwork” in seamen’s terms—were being conducted on Tradewind Sunrise, a Panamanian-registered fuel tanker, which resulted in a loud explosion in the left front area, close to the bow.

The explosion resonated through a one-mile radius, an eyewitness said, rocking nearby offices including those of British Gas, located a few hundred metres from the explosion.

Sources said the repairs were being done by employees of Inter Isle Construction and Fabrication Company.

More than 20 people were on board, including the Inter Isle workers.

Coast Guard sources said two men died, although radio and television reports mentioned four deaths.

Sources said the dead men’s bodies were found floating among debris.

The explosion left a gaping hole at the top of the left side of the tanker, and its lower portion was partially torn open. Had it ripped a few feet more, the tanker would have taken in water, several boatmen said.

The air in the area was filled with the odour of fuel. and the waters were dirtied with a petroleum, rainbow-coloured coating.

An eyewitness who asked to remain anonymous said when she heard the explosion, the building in which she worked shook.

She said the nearby BG office dispatched a tug to help extinguish the fire, which, with the help of another tug, was done in quick time.

The ship had docked close to her office earlier this week, but had to go back out to make room for a rig coming in today, she added. She counted herself lucky that the accident had not occurred on the dock.

BG Communication officer Aleem Hosein said the Coast Guard had called on vessels in the area to assist in extinguishing the fire.

He said BG was fortunate to have a vessel at the time to assist, but had not yet received any feedback from its health and safety officers.

By the time the media had arrived, the Coast Guard was circling the area, trying to find those unaccounted for, while at the same time trying to cordon off the disaster area.

Another ship was seen spraying a chemical substance into the water, supposedly to break down the fuel.

Special forces officer and popular TV personality Rodney Granado, who was based at the Carrera Prison when the explosion took place, said it literally rocked the roof there.

He said some of the other officers claimed to have seen the explosion take place.

Granado said those officers said the incident was “something out of a movie,” as the explosion sent objects 50 feet in the air, some of which seemed to be people.

Officials at Inter Isle could not be reached for comment.

With reporting by Denyse Renne and Asha Javeed




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