A series of explosions which occurred at a chemical storage depot at 27 River Road, Barking on 21 January 1980 was probably caused by the rapid thermal decomposition of sodium chlorate in an intense fire.
About 4000 people were temporarily evacuated from nearby housing estates when large quantities of smoke were blown in their direction.
The storage of sodium chlorate in quantities as low as 2-45 tonnes was not considered, prior to this incident, to be potentially dangerous. All previously recorded incidents involved quantities of 20 or more tonnes of the material.
This report emphasises the need for occupiers of similar premises to pay attention to:
– segregating various chemicals into different categories with regard to their relevant properties;
– obtaining advice on fire precautions from authoritative sources;
– preparing adequate emergency procedures in conjunction with the emergency services.
Image Credit: HSE