Whitby Road, Bristol, latest

Staff from businesses affected by the explosion at a Bristol gas plant have attended a meeting to share their concerns with representatives from agencies involved in the on-going operation.

More than 60 people were at this morning’s (Thursday) meeting when they heard an update on the latest situation at the Whitby Road site and were invited to put questions to the panel.

Senior officers from Avon Fire & Rescue Service and Avon and Somerset Constabulary were joined by representatives from BOC which owns the plant, Bristol City Council and Great Western Ambulance Service.

Two fire appliances and a High Volume Pump remain on standby at Whitby Road where large quantities of water continue to be used to cool cylinders in the building. A number of small fires are still burning at the acetylene production plant following last Thursday’s explosion.

During the meeting representatives from local firms expressed their frustrations over the operation which is now into its seventh day. Part of Whitby Road remains cordoned off forcing the closure of firms in the vicinity.

During the meeting Paul Styler, UK Head of Production for BOC, apologised to businesses for the disruption the incident has caused and added: “We all want to get to a point of bringing this incident to a close as swiftly as possible, but with safety in mind."

Speaking after the meeting, Avon Fire & Rescue Service Group Manager Denis McCann, said it was impossible to put a timescale on the conclusion of the incident: “We are acutely aware of the disruption and financial implications this ongoing incident is having on local businesses, but rest assured there are many people, including experts from the UK and overseas, working behind the scenes to find a safe resolution.

“This meeting was an opportunity for interested parties to put their concerns directly to those involved with managing this incident. While we haven’t been able to answer their questions about how the long the incident is likely to last, I hope they went away with a better understanding of the situation.

“The steps we have taken over the past week to cool the cylinders has meant the cordon is at its absolute minimum level. This has meant businesses at the Unicorn Business Park and Avonmeads, as well as the nearby train lines can continue to operate, but a number of firms unfortunately are within that cordon.

“Although the situation is stable we have now initiated an action plan which will see steps taken to begin to bring this incident to a close.

“Some of those actions may mean we need to temporarily extend the current cordon but I was pleased that those present today, although frustrated, understood and appreciated the importance of the work we have to do.”

“This morning’s meeting was extremely useful and provided constructive feedback for all agencies involved in running this incident. We will continue to have close dialogue with affected firms and I have nothing but thanks for their continued support and understanding.”