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City centre tanker crash closes Almaty streets
A 16-tonne petrol tanker has caused chaos in the central Asian city of Almaty resulting in a large fire and the evacuation of residential property.
Belonging to the “Helios” oil company, the tanker left the road in the heart of Kazakhstan’s largest city, struck a tree and turned over. The crash resulted in a fire which quickly spread to a nearby block of flats resulting in the evacuation of 40 people and the rescue by emergency services of 4 people including 2 children. The tanker driver was trapped in the wreckage and died at the scene.
The drama unfolded at 10am local time (4am GMT) on Thursday 27th June during the weekday rush in the busy inner city streets of the former capital of the central Asian republic, Almaty. Home to over 2 million people, the city lies at the foot of a range of mountains and its streets are sharply inclined. At the time of the accident, the tanker was traveling north down the steep street when it left the road at a traffic-light controlled junction. Although the cause of the accident is still being investigated, reports suggest that there was a collision between the tanker and a 4×4 vehicle at the junction resulting in the tanker leaving the road and hitting a tree.
As part of the city’s policies on road safety, congestion and clean air, the general use of HGV equipment in the city centre area is banned and there are no petrol filling stations located in the very heart of the city. Questions are therefore being raised concerning the route taken by the tanker at the time of the crash.
Fire from the wreckage engulfed five nearby cars and an adjacent 8-storey block of flats with flames and smoke reaching the upper floors of the building. Police and fire crews were on the scene within 6 minutes of the incident and evacuated the building and surrounding area with the police putting a cordon in place to keep bystanders away. The nearby luxury Rixos hotel was placed on emergency standby but residents didn’t need to be evacuated.
The tanker’s operator is one of Kazakhstan’s own petrol companies, “Helios” and city authorities have made it clear that if the company is found to be liable, it will be expected to pay restorative and punitive compensation to those affected. As yet, it is unknown to what extend residential properties have been damaged but it is expected that fire, water and smoke damage will put flats in the block out of commission for a considerable period of time thereby requiring the temporary re-housing of local residents.
Helios representatives have so far declined to comment on the incident. According to city council official Yuriy Ilyin, fire and emergency services will continue to work at the scene and a commission will be established to assess the damage resulting from the accident. The fire covered an area of around 400 square metres (480 square yards).
The driver of the tanker died at the scene and there were no other casualties.