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Huge fuel depot blast in UK

At about 6 am this morning I woke up startled by the sound of a distant thud. It turns out that the noise was caused by a huge explosion at a fuel depot in Hertfordshire to the north of London. A massive plume of smoke is pouring into the sky and traces of it can be seen above the skyline in central London, dulling what would otherwise be a magnificently blue, bright sky.

So far, no-one has been killed in the blast, which happened in an industrial estate rather than in the midst of a densely packed area of housing. Thank goodness. The police are so far treating the blast as an accident. We shall see. The M1 motorway leading north has been closed. If anyone reading this has any travel plans, I’d give the Hemel Hempstead area a miss.

36 comments to Huge fuel depot blast in UK

  • Matt O'Halloran

    You don’t need the excuse of an industrial fire to give the Hemel Hempstead area a miss.

  • PJ

    I seem to have been the only person in London not to hear the blast, even though I was awake at 6 am (jetlag from Sydney). Bloody double-glazing. They never mentioned this downside when I bought the stuff.

  • How come I heard it in Kent (Whitstable) as did my sister.

    I thought it was a muslim terrorist attack and went back to sleep.

  • Verity

    Good news for children, though. Some schools in the area will be closed tomorrow.

    I’ve been reading reports that some people thought they heard a plane crashing a few seconds before the depot went up, although how they know what a crashing plane sounds like is a bit of a mystery. It’s not a sound you hear every day.

  • Julian Taylor

    You don’t need the excuse of an industrial fire to give the Hemel Hempstead area a miss.

    Why? What’s wrong with that area of Hertfordshire? Apart from its industrial area Hemel Hempstead isn’t a particular blight on the landscape in the way that Slough or High Wycombe is.

    Latest news is that 2Jags Prescott is on his way to the scene of the blast, presumably to add yet more hot air to Hemel Hempstead.

  • Verity

    Julian Taylor – V good!

    Other than that, what is 2Jags going to do? Take control of the situation? Slap an order on the site slating it for the development of 100,000 new homes?

    Gordon’ll be down shortly, with an accountant, making up new taxes in the back of the car to charge the owners of the depot. Tony’ll be next, to formally cede the area to Brussels as a European Heritage Site.

  • RPW

    “6AM this morning” is a tautology of course, but sloppy grammar can I suppose be excused in the circumstances:-)

    Somewhat more seriously, my wife’s first thought was terrorism too. I hope not, if for no other reason than the Blairites will doubtless say this proves why we need ID cards/90 days detention or whatever if it is:-/

  • Verity

    No. It’s not terrorism. Too close to Luton.

  • Rich

    Maybe 2Jags is going to empty the other unburnt tanks into his fleet of cars thereby avoiding any further explosions.

  • Yeah this woke my parents up this morning. I didn’t hear it though.

    I always knew Hemel Hempstead was hell, now they have the fire to prove it.

  • I have heard a plane crash, but I didn’t know that was what I was hearing until later. Just a bang then a rattle. It’s not a sound of which one could say, “once heard, never forgotten.”

    I think the plane crash will turn out to be one of those instant urban myths.

  • Verity

    So do I. Probably what they heard was a loud thud of a preliminary explosion.

    But I also think that if it was a terrorist attack, this deceitful, authoritarian government will cover it up.

  • Matt O'Halloran

    Hemel is to the NW of London what Basingstoke is to the W, Crawley to the SW and Harlow to the E. ‘Overspill’ towns that look big on paper but are chock full of sod-all. You never hear about them until an industrial accident occurs. Like Gertrude Stein’s Oakland, Cal., when you get there there’s no ‘there’ there.

    Other infamous smaller examples: South Woodham Ferrers, Billericay, Wokingham, Stevenage, Haywards Heath. Full of Tesco supermarkets trying to pass themselves off as tithe barns.

    John ‘Two Jags’ Prescott is hell-bent on creating more of these featureless mini-Milton Keyneses. He wants Ashford, never the liveliest or loveliest of market towns, to sprawl into a super-Hemel of 200,000 people. By the time he’s finished the Garden of England will be the Barratt Homes Junkyard of Europe.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Verity, I reckon Prescott could always pee on the flames.

  • Julian Morrison

    I see no reason yet to suppose terrorism. Petrol is dangerous stuff and accidents will happen.

    Although, perhaps Labour blew it up to paper over their recent harsh poll numbers? Knowing how much sneaky buggers they are, it wouldn’t surprise me if they had bad news ready on tap for political emergencies.

  • Samsung

    Just read this gleeful little message on a Mid-Eastern Forum, courtesy of an crackpot Islamist poster.

    “Three days ago, Dr Ayaman Al-Zawahiri, the second man in Al-Qaeda, called on Arabs and Muslims to target the oil facilities of the infidel USraeli Jew criminals and their supporters. Yesterday 10.12.05 the largest pipeline carrying oil to Turkey was blown up North of Kirkuk. Today, three explosions caused an earth quake-like thud followed by huge fires at Britain fifth largest oil supply depot near Luton Airport. A major motorway (M1) from London to the North was closed causing traffic chaos.

    Although no-one has claimed responsibility for the three explosions, one can not help but think it is an act of revenge for British bombardment of Iraq. The huge balls of fire reminded the observers of similar scenes when UK-US planes dropped lb1000 bombs over Baghdad.

    Thanks to Al-Qaeda or to Almighty Allah for settling scores with those who destroyed my beloved Baghdad.

    Adnan Darwash, Abu Ghraib Times.”

  • Johnathan Pearce

    You can smell the fumes here. It is quite unpleasant. This one is going to take a while to cope with. The Fire Brigade are earning their pay today.

  • John East

    2Jags has turned up to check the suitability of the site for travellers. Apparently, when the flames die down a bit it will be ready for immediate occupation.

  • Pete_London

    Another one I slept through! Granted, I’m 40 miles away but the noise is known to have travelled 100 miles and Sky News has reported that people in Belgium heard the thing go up. The Great Hemel Hempstead Oil Blast of 2005 is now added to a list which includes the hurricane of 1987, an avalanche in the Italian Alps, an IRA bomb and an earthquake in Australia. Slept through every bloody one of’em.

  • RAB

    Mmm! I do love the smell of Napalm in the morning!
    Dumdedum dah dah, dumdedum dah dah.
    It was an accident!

  • I slept rather badly last night, in London SW1. I got up for a drink of water in the early hours, then went back to bed again.

    Before I got to sleep I distinctly remember a very peculiar, one-off and severe rattling of the windows in my bedroom, which are rather rickety. What was that?, I asked myself, very drowsily.

    I guess now I know.

    I waited for some sort of sound, but heard nothing.

  • I heard it in W8, like a door being slammed. Woke me up for a bit but hey, Sunday = sleep in day.

  • mbe

    I’m only about 10 miles away, or maybe seven as the crow flies. Wholly unimpressed: didn’t hear anything, couldn’t see and haven’t seen much smoke but did have to queue to get petrol!


  • “Latest news is that 2Jags Prescott is on his way to the scene of the blast, presumably to add yet more hot air to Hemel Hempstead.”

    God God,do you know what this means,if he gets near those flames the fire will never go out.

  • I think these reports of hearing it in Holland and Belgium are pure fantasy. I was out and about outside in Brighton at 6am and didn’t hear a bloody thing. Arse. I always miss these Big Media Events.

    Damn impressive blast though, wish I’d been (relatively) nearby with my camera. I think the BBC helicopter earned its keep today with those images it got.

    As for the economic damage, I dread to think how much advertising revenue Sky News lost today with its full-on break-free coverage of the Big Cloud of Smoke.

  • I didn’t hear squot. Course I got in at 3:30 from a “media” party so I was probably rather out of it. I thought some of the coverage was appalling and pretty ignorant.

  • Verity

    I am just sick about all the “global warming” this has caused! It is certainly much less powerful than when Mt St Helen’s erupted around 15 years ago, which made absolutely no difference to the climate of the world, but that was natural. From Mt St Helen’s in Washington state, around 2,500 miles away, our cars in Texas were covered in volcanic ash. And it caused more pollution than all the factories in the 19th and 20th Centuries combined. But it was natural, so OK. Gasoline depot – crime against humanity.

  • zmollusc

    According to this morning’s news, firefighters have been given the go-ahead to start putting the fire out. What have they been doing for the last 24 hours since they rushed there, sirens on and running red lights (i presume)?

    Oh, and a tip for Al-Qaeda if they want to cripple Britain’s infrastructure. Guys, just get a car and bump into another vehicle so that they pull over to swap insurance details. You can leg it at this point as your work is done: dozens of police vehicles will immediately block all lanes of both carriageways for many hours while the oficers stand around chatting. Huge cost and inconvenience to thousands and you don’t even have to mess about making explosives.

  • Julian Morrison

    zmollusc: what they’ve been doing is stopping it from spreading. Putting out a pressurized oil fire isn’t like blowing out a candle!

  • pommygranate

    The most amazing aspect of the blast, is that it has elevated Hemel Hempstead to the position of the world’s 7th most popular search according to technorati

    Anyone seeking further information can stop right here – living just 3 miles away, i can vouch that it is an unmitigated dump.

    “Burberry curtains twitch as a half decent car approaches. The inhabitants are much more used to the throaty revving of a distressed cavalier, or the gnat like buzz of a motored scooter. Either way if you aren’t screeching along the road at 60mph it is obvious you are a stranger.

    Arriving in Hemel town centre via bus (experienced Chavs should be able to travel without paying), you can start your Chav break straight away as the bus station is right next to the market! Here you can get all your favourite Chav-brand copies and past-sell-by-date food, and the open-air construction is perfect for running off without paying! It’s just a short slouch to the post office to collect your government handouts shovelled from the taxes of decent working people. They even sell lottery tickets so you can start spending your child benefit straight away! It’s just a few metres of shouting up the road to McDonald’s for a meal with that touch of class you love so much, then the whole of Hemel town centre awaits you! How will you choose between Poundland, Argos and Woolies? We recommend the latter – it has a rear door that opens onto a main road for trouble-free shoplifting. Or hang around the entrance to any of the town centre flats and an 8-year-old mini-Chav will be happy to sell you a bag of puff or some E’s.”

    Find out more at chavtowns

  • Johnathan

    pommygranate, well, when your neighbourhood burns down, I hope you won’t mind if folk Google up your neck of the woods to take the piss!

  • pommygranate

    Johnathan – it is my neck of the woods! I live in Redbourn. Jarman Park is the kids’ favourite place on the planet. Hence i know HH from bitter experience.

  • 174197

    Putting out a pressurized oil fire isn’t like blowing out a candle!

    The pumps are still running? How is all the smoke getting out of the pressure vessels? Anyway, it is a shame that Fred Astaire is dead, he would have got the fire under control in no time.

  • zmollusc

    174197? That’s a funny name for a lobster! I bet it was some drooling incompetent who typed the turing code into the wrong box. What a loser.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    pommygranite, touche!