Authorities in the northern Colombian city of Santa Marta and the owner of a storage are involved in a row over who is to blame for a fire that sent 300 locals to hospital on Sunday.
A letter from the Mayor’s office on Santa Marta has stated that “it has been decreed that an immediate suspension of activities is to take place” and that “we have instructed the Dadma authorities to act very quickly.”
The fire started on Sunday night after a firework or similar incendiary device entered the warehouse where ammonia nitrate was stored. The ensuing blaze produced vast quantities of toxic smoke which eventually saw almost 300 people taken to hospitals after suffering from respiratory problems.
However, according to local media sources, it is becoming increasingly apparent that Plant Nutrition South America is seeking to blame the local people of Fenoco for starting the fire. A spokesperson for the company told Dracamandaca that “we cannot do anything if products in the warehouse are affected by something as sudden firework.”
The spokesperson added that the fire had cost them 600 tons of fertilizer, valued at approximately $370,000.
The Mayor’s office has subsequently accused the warehouse owners of not having a contingency or emergency plan, or even of having a plan for solid waste management. Despite the company’s claims that the chemicals “did not pose any harm to local residents” this was contradicted by reports from the fire and police departments.
According to regulations, ammonia nitrate “must be stored in closed areas dry with a temperature of 15-25 degrees Celsius and separated from organic materials and from oxidizing substances, flammable liquids, acids, finely divided metals and sulfur.” Local news reports that after a visit too the factory on Monday it was revealed that the chemical was wrapped in plastic and kept on wooden pallets outside the factory.
At the time of going to press, neither party had been able to talk directly to Colombia Reports.