Minister adds doubts about wharf fire

By Lanuola Tusani Tupufia ,

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Papalii Niko Lee Hang

Papalii Niko Lee Hang

Answers about wharf security, safety procedures and simple common sense are at the heart of information being sought by the new Minister of Works, Infrastructure and Transport.

Any work that involves fire around one of the biggest fuel tanks at the Matautu wharf is a time bomb waiting to explode is the view of Minister Papali’i Niko Lee Hang who added his concerns over the storage tank fuel that exploded last week. 

The Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi had also pointedly raised questions about the qualifications of those employed by Petroleum Products Supplies (P.P.S.).  

A 31 year old employee of P.P.S. died as a result of the tank explosion. 

During an interview with the Samoa Observer, the Minister who is also responsible for the Matautu wharf said he does not understand the logic of work involving fire and a fuel tank. 

“I don’t understand why there was welding work at the tanks when there was fuel in them,” Papali'i said. 

“I mean, at the petrol station you can’t use your cell phone and you can’t smoke but these things are minor. 

“But they weld the tank with fuel in it … it’s just ridiculous and doing it on top of a fuel tank it’s a time bomb, it can explode anytime.”

While the Minister is still puzzled about the maintenance work, he said there is negligence the part of the Samoa Ports Authority who are responsible for those who come in and out at the wharf. 

“I don’t think there was any security at the time (to ask) who these people are and what kind of work they would be doing at the wharf,” said Papali’i. 

“They should have known that no work should be done when there is fuel in the tank. I was shocked when I heard a loud bang it was like an earthquake. Then I saw something blowing up in the air and the tank was on fire with smoke coming out of it.”

Speaking to the media on Thursday, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi also questioned whether the P.P.S. employees were qualified to do such work at the tanks. 

“There should be someone who is trained in this kind of work,” said Tuilaepa. 

“That is the unknown mystery. Is the worker who did the welding qualified because that kind of work requires trained people who understand how to do this kind of work and we don’t know about the workers who did it.”

According to P.P.S. Managing Director, Fanene Samau Etuale Sefo, the work at the tanks was legal and there was a permit for it. 

Police and expertise from Australia are conducting an investigation into the oil tanks and the fire on Monday. 

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