3,000 people ordered to evacuate after fire breaks out at Wakayama Prefecture oil refinery

Kyodo

A fire broke out at an oil refinery in Wakayama Prefecture on Sunday, prompting authorities to order nearly 3,000 local residents to evacuate, firefighters and local city officials said.

No injuries have been reported.

After the fire began around 3:50 p.m. at a TonenGeneral Sekiyu K.K. refinery in the city of Arida, a pall of black smoke hung over the area.

A unit producing lubricant oil is believed to have caught fire, according to firefighters and company officials. No explosion occurred. Police are investigating the cause of the fire.

As of 9 p.m. Sunday, the fire still had not been contained, and at least 100 sq. meters have been burned so far.

Another fire erupted Wednesday inside a crude oil tank at the same refinery after it had been emptied for cleaning.

The refinery is only a few meters away from Arida City Hall and is located on the coast. The 2.5 million-sq.-meter facility operates around the clock to produce gasoline, kerosene and benzene.

About 500 people took shelter at a local welfare center and a junior high school, where blankets and drinking water were provided.

A 37-year-old company employee said she was worried that strong winds might spread the fire further, while her 8-year-old son was terrified, saying he wanted to go home soon.

West Japan Railway Co. took a number of safety steps, one of which was to have local trains bypass nearby Hatsushima station on the Kisei Line due to the fire.