I just got this from CTV in Canada
Massive blasts hit fuel depot north of London
CTV.ca News Staff
A series of explosions tore through one of Britain's largest oil distribution depot north of London early Sunday, shooting towers of flames and smoke hundreds of feet into the sky.
Police say the blasts at Buncefield Oil Terminal near Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire county, which injured 36 people, appeared to be accidental.
"All indications at this stage are that this was an accident," said Frank Whiteley, the county's chief of police told a news conference.
"However, clearly we will keep an open mind, as with all investigations, until we can confirm that for certain."
Britons have been on edge since July's deadly transit bombings in London, during which four suicide bombers blew themselves up and killed 52 commuters.
Earlier rumours that an aircraft was heard flying low overhead before the first explosion were unfounded, police said.
Witnesses reported hearing a loud boom and felt their homes shake when the first blast happened shortly after 6:00 a.m. GMT, as well as another two explosions that followed within half an hour.
"Around 6 a.m. as we were sleeping, there was a mighty explosion - a thunderclap that woke me up," said Neil Spencer, who lives less than a kilometre-and-a-half from the terminal, told The Associated Press. "It was fireball after fireball - truly amazing."
Local resident Richard Ayers said he saw a massive column of smoke billow into the air and said the sheer force of the blasts appeared to blow the roofs off nearby houses.
"It is like it is doomsday," he told the BBC.
More than four hours after the blast, a huge tower of black smoke continued to blow several hundred feet into the air.
"It's probably the largest that I have seen ... in terms of actual fire size," the county's chief fire officer Roy Wilsher told a news conference.
More explosions are expected throughout the day.
"The fire is contained," Whiteley told a news conference in Hertfordshire. "Yes, it's big and it's going to burn for some time. But it is under control."
Some flights were forced to delay at London's Heathrow Airport because of smoke, but Luton Airport -- which is near the oil depot -- was said to be operating as usual.
Meanwhile, the area around the site has been evacuated, and police are advising nearby residents to stay indoors as the plume of smoke travels eastward.
The Buncefield depot, the country's fifth largest fuel distribution depot, is operated by Total and partly owned by Texaco that stores petrol and fuel oils for a large part of southeast England.
Police said there was no indication the blasts would cause fuel shortages and warned against panic buying.
"We strongly advise against this as recent events have shown that panic buying alone can cause fuel shortages," said Whiteley.