Spyros Tanker Disaster

FORTY-EIGHT people were killed and nearly 100 injured, most of them seriously, in an explosion and fire on board the Greek tanker Spyros at Jurong Shipyard yesterday -- the worst disaster, in terms of lives lost, in Singapore's post-war history.

The death toll is expected to rise as rescue workers were still going into the ship's engine and boiler rooms early this morning to search for missing workers.

Doctors at Alexandra Hospital where 50 of the injured are warded and at Singapore General Hospital which has 48 of the injured on its list, are working round the clock to save lives.

A number of the dead and injured are women.

Most of those warded suffered serious burns and their condition has been described as critical. Others, including four firemen, were overcome by toxic gases or suffered shock.

Sparks from the cutting torch used during repairs, caused a fire which ignited an explosive vapour mixture within the aft starboard bunker tank of the vessel. The fuel tank had been contaminated by crude oil. The explosion ruptured the common bulkhead between the tank and the engine room, releasing the burning oil into the engine room and setting it on fire, killing the workers there instantly.

Of those working on board the vessel, 76 people were killed and 69 others injured. Of the victims who died from burns, some bodies were charred while most died from flash burns, the intense heat of approximately 3,000 degrees centigrade sloughing off their underlying skin.

At around 2:15 p.m., Spyros exploded. The explosion occurred as about 150 workers, including women, returned to the engine and boiler rooms of the vessel after their lunch break for repair and cleaning work. A number of the ship's 32 crew were also on board.

The blast flung debris from the 35,600-tonne vessel as far as 100 metres away and started a flash fire that prevented dockside workers from rescuing those trapped inside the ship.

Minutes after the accident, an extensive rescue operation swung into action, involving the police, military and medical services. All hospitals were alerted to be on stand-by for casualties.

Rescue workers went into the ship's engine and boiler rooms to search for missing workers. Eight fire engines and ambulances rushed to the scene and after the fire was doused, more rescue workers poured into the ship to help the injured and remove the dead. The injured were ferried to hospital in ambulances and helicopters.

A total of 76 died during the accident, with many more injured. The wounded were ferried by ambulance and helicopter to Alexandra Hospital and Singapore General Hospital. Most of those warded suffered serious burns, with their conditions described as critical. Others, including four firemen, were treated for inhalation of toxic gas and shock.