21 March 2018

'Massive Operation' to put out fire at Pulau Busing, 20 Mar 2018

A raging oil storage tank fire on Pulau Busing was extinguished by firefighters on 20 Mar 2018 after a massive six-hour operation involving several agencies, reported media articles.
Photo by Minister Shanmugam.
The fire was "quite severe", a Tankstore source told Reuters, asking not to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media. Update in July 2018: "Preliminary investigations show that a lightning strike was the cause of the oil storage tank fire".

What nearby natural shores might be affected?

How big was the fire?

Thick plumes of smoke billowing from the island was seen from the mainland.

A video of the blaze, which SCDF said was taken at the "height of the operations", showed the top of the oil storage tank completely engulfed in flames that shot up several metres into the air. A total of 128 personnel and 31 firefighting and support vehicles were deployed for the "massive operation", SCDF said

Any pollution impacts to the surroundings?

Media reports say "Two large foam monitors were used to contain the oil storage tank fire."

Fire fighting foam can have toxic impact on marine life. While the chemicals in the fumes from the fire eventually fall back into the sea.

During the Bukom fire in 2011, Shell said they took precautions against any chemicals spilling into the sea. "(We) have deployed booms off Pulau Bukom in the sea to ensure that if in the event, any of this does escape to the sea it will be captured in the booms, and we have boats offshore keeping watch."

But no such action was reported for this recent fire.

According to media articles: "The National Environment Agency (NEA) said that there has not been any increase in pollutant levels, and that it would provide updates should there be changes in the air quality situation. "We are monitoring the air quality closely, especially in the southwestern region of Singapore," NEA said. "The prevailing winds are currently blowing from the northeast and the air quality has remained in the good to moderate range," it said. There have also been no spikes in the PM2.5, sulphur dioxide and other air pollutant levels, it added.

But NEA did not say if it was monitoring water quality around the site of the fire.

Update 24 Mar: Chay Hoon shared these photos of the tank affected by the fire. It is close to the water. She added "water looks ok".
Photo by Toh Chay Hoon taken on 24 Mar.

Photo by Toh Chay Hoon taken on 24 Mar.

Update 25 Mar: Tsu Soo Tan shared "Divers at the northern jetty of Pulau Hantu did not see any effects of this event underwater, at least down to 15 m, on Hantu side."
What natural shores are found near Pulau Busing?

Pulau Busing is close to some of the best reefs and seagrass meadows in Singapore.

Pulau Hantu is the closest, with beautiful reefs that was reguarly visited by the volunteer divers of the Hantu Bloggers.
Living reefs of Pulau Hantu
Living reefs of Pulau Hantu off tanks at Pulau Busing.

Terumbu Hantu and several other little submerged reefs lie off Pulau Hantu are also very close to the fire.
Living reefs of Terumbu Hantu off tanks at Pulau Busing,
seen during our last survey in Apr 2017.

Also nearby is Cyrene Reef, a large submerged reef with some of the best seagrass meadows in Singapore. Also natural sandy shores, and reefs.
Living reefs of Cyrene at sunrise
Colourful Cyrene Reef opposite Pulau Busing

The submerged reefs of the Terumbu Pempangs are also nearby.
Stumpy acropora corals (Acropora sp.)
Living reefs of Terumbu Pempang Laut, Jun 2015

Also Pulau Semakau which has vast seagrass meadows and reefs.
Pulau Bukom off Pulau Semakau's seagrass meadows
The natural shores of Pulau Semakau.

The lovely submerged reef of Terumbu Semakau is also near Pulau Bukom and Pulau Busing.
Stumpy acropora coral (Acropora sp.)
Corals on Terumbu Semakau opposite Pulau Bukom.

Although tiny, Pulau Jong is among our last unspoilt islands and is very close to Pulau Bukom.
Emissions from Pulau Bukom near Pulau Jong

Further away on the mainland is Labrador and next to it, the natural shores of Sentosa.
Pulau Bukom from Labrador

Will the aftermath of the oil spill affect nearby shores? 

I have no idea and can only hope for the best.

Media articles on this incident
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