Van explosion sparks massive inferno on petrol forecourt

AN investigation is under way into a huge fire which engulfed a petrol station forecourt, forcing customers to flee for their lives.

The blaze was started by an explosion from machinery inside a white Transit van as contractors carried out work in the middle of the forecourt at the Morrisons petrol station in Almondvale Road, Livingston.

There were around ten customers, including a young girl, on the forecourt when the explosion happened at 3.50pm yesterday. One woman was said to have been knocked of her feet by the force of the blast and the whole area was engulfed in flames within a few minutes.

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Incredibly, there were no serious injuries and only the two pumps nearest the van were damaged, while the forecourt roof was extensively burned.

It is thought the contractors employed by Morrisons were operating the machinery to transfer petrol from one underground tank to another shortly before the explosion. The Health and Safety Executive is now leading the probe into what happened.

Gavin McRoberts, from Fauldhouse, who was visiting his mother in Livingston, was filling his Vauxhall Corsa up at the time.

He said: "I just heard a big bang and looked round, but I didn't see any fire at first. The side of the van was pushed out because of the explosion.

"My first instinct was to get away and I walked past the back of the van to go to the other side of the forecourt where everybody else was heading and that's when I saw the fire inside.

"I got a bit of a shock and it was only a matter of minutes before the flames were massive. It was lucky there was nobody injured."

Another man from Fauldhouse was filling up his pick-up truck directly across from the van when he heard the loud explosion.

"When I turned round, I saw smoke coming from the van and within seconds the machinery inside had caught fire and the side of the van was blown out the way," he said.

"The explosion blew the door off on the other side as well.

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"About 30 seconds later the flames were huge, and within two or three minutes the whole area was engulfed.

"If there was any sort of leak (of petrol) coming out of the pumps at the van, the whole place would have exploded.

"There was a small girl on that side of the van in a car who got quite upset and scared when it happened, but the fire crews were here very quickly and got it under control. They were brilliant."

Bill MacDonald, who was working just round the corner, said: "I heard the explosion and then all the blues and twos. The front of the filling station is charred and black with the smoke."

Officers from West Lothian Council's building standards department said the area would be sealed off today while an investigation was carried out.

A spokeswoman for Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service said: "The explosion started in a commercial van on the forecourt. It appears the van was carrying out work where petrol was being decanted into one tank from another. It appears that this is the cause of the fire, but an investigation is still ongoing in conjunction with the Health and Safety Executive.

"The van was totally destroyed by the fire and there was some damage to the underside of the roof of the garage. One lady was knocked off her feet by the force of the blast and was treated by paramedics at the scene but suffered no injuries."