Cyprus Mail

Dangerous containers pose risk in Tala, residents say

A TALA resident is appealing to local authorities to ensure the removal of a number of metal shipping containers found close to his home, which he says store petrol-driven equipment and pose a serious threat to life. He has even written to the president.

“I am particularly concerned as there was a fire in this field just last year which quickly got out of control and caused extensive damage. The containers then appeared on the field a couple of months later,” said Tala resident Jeffrey Judge.

Judge and wife Lyn said they are both worried that the summer heat coupled with the building up of petrol fumes inside the container could lead to an explosion. Lyn said that if a similar fire occurred now, the outcome could be fatal.

“When a fire spreads up to your house and burns your fence as this fire did last year with us, it really hits home. Now we have these containers full of equipment filled with petrol on the field in front, I am very concerned,” she said.

Judge said that he has now written an appeal to the president to take his complaint seriously, as after months of trying to get the large industrial containers moved, nothing has happened. He said he is very concerned that petrol fumes may be building up inside the containers which are exposed to intense sun and heat on a daily basis.

The villa owner said that as no action has yet been taken to remove the industrial containers, despite assurances by the district administration that the owner was given notice to remove them, he has now written to the president, the fire services and the local community board, the ministry of the interior, the mayor of Paphos and the CTO for help. He said that the situation could quite literally, blow up at any time.

“We were getting very concerned as the temperature is going up and the containers are in direct sunlight all day long, so we wrote to them all to express our concerns and also that out that under health and safety regulations they have the power to remove the containers without the involving the owner.”

The couple also pointed out that an explosion in a residential area would have far reaching consequences for both residents and holidaymakers, as there are the many rental properties in the area.

Judge said that he believes that the three large metal containers and metal shed all house equipment or metal drums, and at least one of the drums contains ‘hazardous material.’

He said: “One afternoon there was an awful smell of gasoline and my wife and I realised that someone had opened a container and it was evident that there was petrol-driven equipment being stored.  I am fully aware of the dangers and health and safety requirements of storing ‘flammable liquids’ their ventilation and the affect heat can have on them.  I called the fire brigade who attended, but as the containers were locked they were unable to access them.”

Following this, a meeting took place which was attended by the owner and the fire department, but no satisfactory action was taken, he said.

In December 2015, the couple received a letter from the Paphos district office which confirmed that the owner had been told to remove the containers within three months or legal action would be taken.  The containers were never moved, he said.

“I have now learnt that the district office extended the removal of the containers until September or October as the owner has a sick relative.  They seem more concerned with this than the safety of possibly 50-plus Tala residents in the surrounding area.”

Judge said that the couple has a real fear that the containers may explode, as this has happened in other countries in the past. A fire could easily take hold, he said, and debris could be catapulted in all directions causing injury and possibly death.

“I have advised all of the authorities of the risk involved and provided reports of previous incidents where containers holding petrol-driven equipment have exploded. In Canada a container was ventilated every day according to regulations, but when a fire broke out, the external heat from the fire caused the fumes from two handsaws holding very little fuel to explode.  The debris travelled 300 metres, a fireman was killed by the flying shrapnel.”

He said that this is not an isolated case and that more countries are introducing stricter regulations in regards to the use of old shipping containers and where and how they should be stored.

“It is only July, we still have August ahead of us with more searing heat and even drier ground conditions.  Is it going to take another major incident to make people realise that ignoring the facts does not make the problem go away.”

Tala councillor Cathi Delaney said that she supports the residents’ complaints and their concerns at having to live with a ‘potential fire bomb’ in front of their property.

“The district office is pursuing the owner as he doesn’t have planning permission for the containers, but there should be concerns from the fire department, and there aren’t,” she said.

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