Four die in UK chemical tank blast: Police

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Emergency responders are seen on the scene of a blast in a warehouse in Avonmouth near Bristol, Britain December 3, 2020 in this picture obtained from social media. (@jawadburhan98 via Reuters)
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A damaged tank is seen at the scene of a blast in a warehouse in Avonmouth near Bristol, Britain December 3, 2020 in this picture obtained from social media. (@jawadburhan98 via Reuters)
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Updated 03 December 2020

Four die in UK chemical tank blast: Police

  • Avon and Somerset Police Chief Inspector said the incident was not terror-related
  • The explosion at the plant operated by Wessex Water occurred in a silo that holds treated bio-solids before they are recycled as organic soil conditioners

LONDON: Four people died on Thursday when a chemical tank exploded at a waste water treatment plant in western England, police said.
"We can confirm there have been four fatalities," Avon and Somerset Police Chief Inspector Mark Runacres said after the explosion at the plant at Avonmouth, near Bristol.
A fifth person was injured but their injuries were not said to be life-threatening, he added.
Police said they would not be speculating on the cause of the explosion but added it was not being treated as terror related.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he was "deeply saddened to learn that four people have lost their lives".
"Our hearts go out to the victims and their families. Thank you to the emergency services who attended the scene," he added.
The explosion at the plant operated by Wessex Water occurred in a silo that holds treated bio-solids before they are recycled as organic soil conditioners, added Runacres.
Witness Jawad Burhan said there was a "helicopter looking for missing people" and police closed a nearby road leading up to the plant.
"I heard the sound, I'm working beside the building in another warehouse. After 10 minutes I saw the helicopter coming and the police," he said.
Another witness, Kieran Jenkins, told the BBC he was in a nearby warehouse when the explosion occurred, saying it was "shaking and we literally stood there in shock.
"Next thing you know we looked out of the windows and all we could see was people running.
"We don't know what happened. It was a bit of a shock really. I heard a bang... we didn't know what was going on."
An investigation has been launched into the blast with the Health and Safety Executive.


‘Disturbing’ allegations of rape in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict: UN

Updated 22 January 2021

‘Disturbing’ allegations of rape in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict: UN

  • A UN representative said she was greatly concerned by serious allegations from the northern region

ADDIS ABABA: The UN says it has received “disturbing” reports of sexual violence and abuse in Ethiopia’s conflict-hit Tigray region, including of individuals forced to rape members of their own family.
Pramila Patten, the UN’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, said she was greatly concerned by serious allegations from the northern region, including “a high number of alleged rapes” in the Tigrayan capital Mekele.
“There are also disturbing reports of individuals allegedly forced to rape members of their own family, under threats of imminent violence,” Patten said in a statement Thursday.
“Some women have also reportedly been forced by military elements to have sex in exchange for basic commodities.”
Patten called on all parties involved in the hostilities to commit to a zero-tolerance policy for crimes of sexual violence.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, announced military operations in Tigray in early November, saying they came in response to attacks by the regional ruling party on federal army camps.
Abiy declared victory after federal forces entered the regional capital in late November, though leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) remain on the run and have vowed to fight on.
Thousands have died in the conflict, according to the International Crisis Group, though a communications blackout and media and humanitarian access restrictions have made it difficult to assess the situation on the ground.
In her statement Thursday, Patten noted that “medical centers have indicated an increase in the demand for emergency contraception and testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) which is often an indicator of sexual violence in conflict.”
She called for full humanitarian access to Tigray, including camps for displaced people “and refugee camps where new arrivals have allegedly reported cases of sexual violence.”
She voiced concern about “more than 5,000 Eritrean refugees in and around the area of Shire living in dire conditions, many of them reportedly sleeping in an open field with no water or food, as well as the more than 59,000 Ethiopians who have fled the country into neighboring Sudan.”
The caretaker administration in Tigray did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this month state television broadcast footage of a meeting during which an unidentified man in a military uniform expressed concern about rapes in Mekele.
“Why are women being raped in Mekele city?” the man said.
“It wouldn’t be shocking had it been happening during the war, because it is not manageable so it could be expected. But at this moment while federal police and local police are back in town, it is still happening.”