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The 2005 Hemel Hempstead fuel depot explosions were a series of explosions that took place at the Hertfordshire Oil Storage Terminal near Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire, in the United Kingdom on December 11, 2005.
The first and largest explosion occurred at around 6.03 am GMT. An inversion layer permitted people to hear it from at least thirty miles away. Subsequent explosions occurred between 6.20 am GMT and 6.30 am GMT. Witnesses observed flames hundreds of feet high from many miles away. One witness described hearing a low-flying plane just before the first explosion, sparking speculation of an airplane crash. Another witness said that several of his neighbours saw an aircraft crash into the depot. The police have issued a blanket statement claiming that they are treating the incident as an accident as opposed to an attack, which was initially believed to have been the cause of the explosions. This rumour may initially have been believed because of the vicinity of Luton airport to the site of the incident.
The Hertfordshire Oil Storage Terminal (HOSL), known locally as the Buncefield complex, is a nationally important strategic and economic resource. It is a major hub on the UK oil pipeline network (UKOP) with pipelines to Humberside, Merseyside and is a vitally important fuel source to the British aerospace industry, providing aircraft fuel for local airports including London Gatwick, London Heathrow and Luton airports.
Damage from the blasts, including broken windows and blown-in or warped front doors, occurred more than half-a-mile away. The roof was blown off of at least one house. People heard the blasts from as much as 30 miles away. Buildings within the vicinity have been evacuated by police, although many residents have not been moved on from their homes. The nearby Ramada hotel, whose windows were shattered, has also been evacuated.
Casualties have been reported. Speaking on BBC News, an eyewitness, who claimed to have spoken to fire crews, stated that there may have been up to six deaths as a result of the incident. Sky News reported similar stories - and suggested eight casualties. Any deaths are, as yet, unconfirmed by authorities, who have only confirmed that there are, indeed, casualties of some kind.
The incident occurred close to Junction 8 of the M1 motorway. The motorway was shut shortly after the incident as were nearby roads.
According to a spokeswoman for Hertfordshire County Council on BBC Radio 5 Live, all 20 of the site's three million gallon capacity tanks are allegedly aflame.
Emergency services have asked residents of the Hemel Hempstead area to close their windows and doors and stay inside.