Petrol Depot Fire in the UK
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Petrol Depot Fire in the UK

December 13, 2005

Sunday, December 11, 2005, was a day without sun for many Londoners. At about 6 a.m. local time, an explosion rocked a fuel depot in Hertfordshire, approximately 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of London.

The ensuing oil fire sent thick clouds of sun-blocking black smoke billowing over London and South England. By 11:50 a.m., when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flew over on NASA's Terra satellite, the smoke had fanned south over tens of kilometers.

London, normally a large cement-colored circle on the landscape, was not even visible beneath the smoke. Nearly three hours later when Aqua MODIS flew over, the fire was still burning, and the smoke had spread still farther. By December 12, the smoke had thinned to a single plume.

British health officials advised those living under the smoke plume to remain indoors. The smoke contains small particles, soot, that may cause irritation when inhaled, but no long-term health effects were expected. The smoke also contains gases like carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and sulphur dioxide.

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