Oil refinery in Italy erupts in flames, black smoke

MILAN – A blaze at an Eni oil company refinery south of Milan sent flames and plumes of smoke into the air Thursday evening, but no injuries were reported.

The cause of the fire at the Sannazzaro de’ Burgondi refinery south of Milan was under investigation. Italian gas and oil giant Eni said there was no explosion, contrary to initial media reports, and that the area where the fire broke out was immediately isolated. The flames were brought under control after several hours.

A cloud of black smoke was visible for 10 kilometres (6 miles) from the site in northern Italy and was spreading toward the neighbouring Piedmont region, the news agency ANSA reported. Officials urged people in the area to stay inside as a precaution.

Farmer Emilio Sala said he was working about a kilometre (half a mile) away from the plant when he heard the refinery alarms go off. Initially the flames weren’t very high, he said.

“Then, there were a series of bursts with a lot of smoke and flames that rose well above the chimneys, more than 60 metres (197 feet),” Sala was quoted as saying by the Italian news agency ANSA.

Ambulances were in place to respond to any health repercussions for nearby residents. Eni said it was monitoring air quality around the refinery, and that the first samples taken by local authorities indicated no significant concentrations of pollutants.