22 January 2012

Uganda: Jinja Oil Factory Goes Up in Flames

Equipment and property worth millions of shillings were lost when fire gutted the Jinja-based Nile Agro Processing Industries plant. The Friday fire, whose origin police and company officials, by Saturday morning, said was still unknown, started at about 12:20pm.

The police fire fighting team, Kakira Sugar and Nile Ply fire departments battled the inferno for five hours. Hundreds of tonnes of cotton and palm cake, materials the company uses in production of oil, soap and animal feeds were burnt to ashes as factory owners helplessly watched the entire oil mill burnt down.

At one point, bulldozers were called in to destroy parts of the walls of the factory to enable the firefighting trucks access the fire bases. There were unconfirmed reports that some employees could have died in the inferno for lack of an escape route. Police, however, said no one was injured.

This is the second time the company has been gutted down by fire.

Last September, the wheat factory section which is within the same building, was extensively destroyed by fire. The police, who are yet to produce a report on the cause of last year's fire, was by Saturday morning still recording statements from the factory management.

The manager, Mr Patel Kamresh, was lost for words. "I only see fire from all sides, I can't even estimate the loss now," said Mr Kamresh when asked on the worth of the damage.However, as the owners stood speechless, watching the firefighters battle the inferno, some youths thought to have had intentions of stealing from the factory were battling with police who denied them entry to the plant.

Police had to use tear gas and live bullets to scare off the youths, as they in turn threw stones at the police in a cat and mouse like episode.

South Eastern Regional Police Commander Ben Mubangizi said his team was yet to establish the cause of the fire. Employees gave differing accounts of what could have started the fire, with some claiming the motors used in the factory over-heat, lighting a flammable powder which sparked off the fire.

Others claimed the fire started from a section of the factory near the store where factory machines repairs and welding is done.

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