Mark Conrad 17 December 2008

Buncefield’s explosive £1bn cost to residents

The massive explosion at the Buncefield oil depot near Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, in December 2005, caused £1bn of damage to the local economy, forcing some businesses into liquidation and residents into unemployment, local authorities have reported.
Following the fire, surveys commissioned by Dacorum BC and the East of England Development Agency ‘indicate that the impacts to local businesses were considerable’, according to the final report on the incident.
The blaze, the largest in peacetime Europe, injured 43 people and led to the evacuation of 2,000 local residents. More than 300 council houses were damaged and required repairs.
The fire was later attributed to over-filling of a large storage tank.
Businesses outside the site claimed around £500m in insurance payouts, while local authorities also claimed £4m.
The cost to public bodies of handling the emergency was around £7.4m, including £4m incurred by Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue, and £2.2m at Hertfordshire CC. At least £3m of emergency costs were reclaimed from central government.
Trading losses to businesses were estimated £130m to £170m, and the report, published by the Major Incident Investigation Board (MIIB), states that ‘large amounts of job relocations and redundancies occurred’. The estimated cost of the additional unemployment was £10m.
Lord Newton of Braintree, chair of the MIIB, said the total cost of the incident ‘broadly adds up to £1bn’ but that includes the cost to the UK’s aviation sector after flights across the South East were diverted.
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