Eight gas tanks from a train that was the centre of a fatal blast in the Bulgarian village of Hitrino have been removed, as the clearing-up operation entered one of its most dangerous phases on December 18.
A new method was used in the operation on Sunday, dousing the gas tanks with hot water to stimulate evaporation.
Bulgaria’s Transport Minister Ivailo Moskovski said that it was hoped that by the end of the day, two dangerous tanks, still to be emptied of gas, would be dealt with. Counting two that have been drained, four gas tanks remain.
On December 18, teams from the energy distribution company and water and sewerage company were admitted to the site for the first time to inspect the situation and advise what should be done.
National fire chief Nikolai Nikolov said that he would not commit to a deadline for residents to return to the village.
The decision would be taken “at the moment I am quite sure,” said Nikolov, who underlined the dangerousness of the continuing operation.
A meeting with Hitrino residents is to be held on December 19 at the community centre in the village of Timarevo, where several have been accommodated after being evacuated after the December 10 explosion that left seven people dead, injured close to 30 and destroyed several houses and other buildings.
At the meeting, residents will be given the results of tests of the water, air and soil in Hitrino.
Bulgaria’s outgoing Prime Minister Boiko Borissov was at the scene in Hitrino on December 17 and 18. He thanked the 770 people involved in the risky operations – firefighters, police and experts.
“These people have shown true heroism. They are working at high speed, the limit of risk.”
Borissov assured residents of Hitrino that all necessary actions were being undertaken to quickly overcome the consequences of the tragic incident. This included caring for their animals.
Residents of the village have been complaining increasingly in recent days about not being allowed to return to Hitrino. Bulgaria’s authorities have emphasised repeatedly that the situation remains too dangerous to allow this.
(Photos: Bulgarian Interior Ministry)