• Kyodo


Idemitsu Kosan Co. President Akihiko Tembo flip-flopped Wednesday on whether he will step down to take responsibility for a recent fire at a refinery in Tomakomai, Hokkaido.

In a morning news conference, Tembo hinted that he was ready to consider stepping down. In the evening, however, he told reporters, “I caused misunderstanding because of inadequate wording, but I have never made up my mind to quit.”

The fire broke out Sunday at a naphtha storage tank and took 44 hours to extinguish. The tank had sustained damage in two massive earthquakes that rocked Hokkaido on Friday.

During the news conference, at the municipal government building, Tembo said, “Of course (the issue of whether I step down or not) is included” in the ways the firm can take responsibility. The remark was widely reported in the media as an indication that he would resign after all work related to dealing with the fire has been completed.

During the same news conference, the oil refiner revealed that 45 of the 105 tanks at the Tomakomai facility were damaged by the temblors. Of these, 30 were badly damaged, and the contents had leaked out of 10 or 11 tanks.

Oil was seeping from the tops of six tanks, including three crude oil tanks and two kerosene tanks. These six tanks were lined with fire extinguishing material, according to Idemitsu Kosan officials.

The officials meanwhile revealed that six workers were on the roof of the naphtha tank when it caught fire. The workers, who had been spreading extinguishing foam over the surface of the naphtha, fled after seeing flames break out from the opposite side of the tank and spread toward them.

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