CORK, Ireland, Jan 8 (AFP) – Ireland commemorated Thursday the 25th anniversary of an inferno that ripped through a French oil tanker and killed 51 seafarers and workers.
The blaze aboard the Betelgeuse – which remains Ireland’s worst industrial accident – was being remembered in special ceremonies in the southwest town of Bantry in County Cork.
The tanker, owned by French oil group Total, exploded on January 8, 1979 as it unloaded 120,000 tonnes of Saudi crude oil at the Whiddy Island terminal jetty in Bantry Bay, killing the entire French crew and seven local employees.
The force of the explosion, which could be heard 40 kilometres (25 miles) away, broke the tanker in two, resulting in burning oil swamping the jetty and surrounding waters.
The combination of a weakened tanker hull and incorrect ballasting was blamed for the tragedy.
Gulf Oil built the Whiddy facility in the late 1960s as a trans-shipment terminal for oil from the Middle East. It was closed for 20 years following the Betelgeuse tragedy.
The Irish National Petroleum Corporation now uses it to store the nation’s required 90 day national reserve of crude oil.
Subject: France news