Off guard on an oil tank

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Off guard on an oil tank

The gigantic fireball that fumed for over 17 hours, burning through 2.66 million liters (702, 697 gallons) of gasoline inside an oil tank in Goyang, Gyeonggi, on Sunday happened entirely due to a lack of a preventive security system.

The police arrested and later released a 27-year-old Sri Lankan man for triggering the fire. He admitted that he lit a sky lantern that landed by a nearby construction site where he was working. After being lit, the lantern flew toward the oil storage facility and landed on a patch of grass near the oil tank, leading to the fire. The man was arrested on charges of misdemeanor arson.

According to the police investigation, employees were on duty, but nothing was done for over 18 minutes before the oil tank blast. The exterior wall of the oil tank did not have fire sensors and ended up with an accident resulting in 4.3 billion won ($3.8 million) worth of damages.

It turned out that the lantern was one of 80 lanterns used by an elementary school the day before.

Under the Framework Act on Fire-Fighting Services revised last year, anyone caught for flying sky lanterns is subject to a maximum fine of 2 million won. Other countries like the United States and Britain strictly ban lantern flying. Korea also must prohibit lantern flying to prevent such a mishap in the future.

Fighting the fire would have been easier if the Sri Lankan man reported the fire immediately. Over two million foreign nationals, including 1.4 million laborers, reside in Korea. Authorities must strengthen safety and cultural education for foreign workers.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 10, Page 30
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