PETROLEUM FIRE AT ANTWERP.
Facilities were afforded to Edwin O. Sachs, chairman of the British Fire Prevention committee, when traveling in Belgium and Germany, to visit the scene of the late destructive petroleum fire at Antwerp. Although the back of the fire was broken, at the time Mr. Sachs viewed the conflagration, he, nevertheless, found parts of the area still covered with flame and smoke, much of the debris being still incandescent. He was, however, quite unable to identify the petroleum tank which was the cause of the disaster, and. also, to arrive at the probable cause of the outbreak. An explosion of terrific force must have occurred at a very early stage, causing one of the great tanks to be bodily moved out of position and further hurling the walls a considerable distance. Directly after this explosion the whole of the area affected became a sea of burning petroleum and the direction of the wind probably saved Antwerp from a much greater calamity. Mr. Sachs holds that the spread of the fire must be attributed to a lack of forethought and an absence of those precautionary measures which, without entailing undue expense, may well be demanded in the storage of inflammable liquids. No fire brigade, however efficient, can cope with conditions arising from the absence of proper preventive measures in connection with petroleum risks. Antwerp, according to Mr. Sachs’s view, lacks the necessary conditions in this respect, and fires, such as this one and that of the great “entrepot royal,” some two and a half years ago will find successors at no long interval, unless there is a radical change in the preventive measures both in the town and at the docks. Antwerp, in spite of the remarkable increase in trade, has neglected the fire preventive questions therein involved. Hamburg and Bremen, Mr. Sachs alleges, have grasped the economic problem of a reduced fire risk, just as has been the case at Liverpool and the Manchester ship canal docks; but Antwerp, the first port on the continent, remains behind the times in this respect. Of modern buildings the new entrepot, which takes the place of that recently burned, is alone equipped with up-to-date safeguards. As regards the loss of life at Antwerp, it is now known that eight persons perished. Eight tanks were destroyed, each having a capacity of 5,000,000 litres (nearly a quart) of oil. The area affected by the fire covers many acres.