In Ireland, an estimated fifty people have died in a supertanker explosion. The French-owned tanker?
In Ireland, an estimated fifty people have died in a supertanker explosion. The French-owned tanker 'Betelgeuse' blew up shortly after midnight on Monday (8 January) when her cargo of one hundred and twenty thousand tonnes was being unloaded at the Bantry Bay terminal. the preliminary death toll included all the ship's crew of forty-one, plus seven Irish workers on a jetty, and an English surveyor who had been on board. The blast was described as Ireland's worst disaster for many years.
SYNOPSIS: The "Betelgeuse" had been diverted from portugal en route from Saudi Arabia. The tanker exploded after about two thirds of her cargo had been discharged. This, experts say, was the danger point, with her holds potentially full of volatile gases.
Within minutes of the explosion, the Betelgeuse broke up, her blazing bow and stern both jutting skywards. The blast hurled molten metal up to six miles (9 kilometres) away. The savage heat from the fire kept firefighters at a distance, but they managed to stop the flames spreading to eighteen storage tanks on shore.
Helicopters searched the sea for corpses, and by midday had found sixteen. The bodies were too badly burnt to be identified. It is believed the explosion killed them instantly.
The explosion sent a fireball almost one thousand feet (300 metres) into the sky. A red glow was seen in the night sky as far away as Cork, some sixty miles (110 kilometres) away. About fifty thousand tonnes of crude oil were ignited, and flames poured from the vessel for several hours.
Bantry Bay is the Gulf Company's only European terminal. Chosen for its remoteness, it was opened ten years ago. A constant stream of supertankers offloads here and their cargoes are then distributed among shallower European ports. Damage to the jetty is so extensive, the Bantry Bay terminal may be closed for months.