Natural and technological hazards in the Orăștie area

The city that we live in is called Orăștie. It is situated in the central-western part of the country, in the Mureșului Valley, which separates the Western Carpathians from the Southern Carpathians.

Orăștie was affected, not long ago, by an industrial accident which qualifies in the category of industrial anthropological hazards. It happened on the 12th September 2017, around 5 pm. A massive explosion, followed by a fire, took place in the essential oils and aromatic chemicals factory, Terpena, a factory which produced for the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. Immediately after the explosion, a huge cloud of toxic fumes covered the city and afterwards it spread to the surrounding villages, carried by the wind in the east south-east direction.

Imagini pentru terpenaThe fire grasped over an 8 floor building, with a surface of approximately 5.000 square meters and warehouses in which both raw materials and finished products were stored. During the fire, a worker suffered fourth grade burns, which unfortunately led to his death the following week. Another 4 people were intoxicated with smoke and required medical care.

Once with the burst of the fire, the population alarm system was activated and a code red emergency was declared. The people who lived close to the factory were evacuated and housed within  sport halls. Besides the victims and the material damage there were toxic gas emissions (approximately 109 different ) which polluted the air and made it unbreathable. The Orăștie river was also polluted, affecting the aquatic wildlife. For extinguishing the fire, the Orăștie Fire Department and other fire departments from the nearby cities were mobilized.

It took about 18 hours to extinguish the fire. One of the firemen said: „It manifested extremely violently. Because of the intensity of the flames, the fire did not give signs of regression for 12 hours.” Many local residents thought that the city would be destroyed and inhabitable because of the toxic substances which spread in the air and ground. They believed the soil would be infertile, affecting  local agriculture in the future.

The local residents who live in the immediate vicinity of the factory went through some horrible moments because the explosions caused vibrations felt in their houses, creating panic and discomfort. Many of them had to leave their homes to be safe in case of the fire spreading and reaching the residential area.

 One of our team members, who lives near this factory, experienced unforgettable moments.

After many hours of agony for the local residents and for the firemen as well, the fire was extinguished. The air quality went back to normal only after a few weeks. As a result of the fire, the land was contaminated, the local harvest was heavily affected, the city and surroundings were polluted with very toxic chemicals, many people lost their jobs and many goods were destroyed. Material damage is insignificant compared to human casualties and environmental pollution.

Besides the chemical hazard presented, our region has been affected by natural disasters, several times. In spite of this fact, our area is quite protected from serious disasters, because of the Carpathian Mountains. Orăștie is situated in an intramontane valley corridor created by the Mureș river.

In the vicinity of Orăștie, in the Șureanu Mountains, the destruction of the Tâmpu-Șesu forest road (9 km) has taken place on the 26th of July 2018. The heavy rains have affected the road, situated in the area of the Grădiște Forest Range, on a section of 4200 m. The summer of 2018 was unusually rainy for the temperate continental transition climate in which we live. The average rainfall in June-August 2018 was above the climatological averages specific to our country and the quantity of water per square meter in 24 hours was very high. This led to the destruction of the above mentioned road. The road platform has suffered complete and partial fractures and eluviations of the road surface. Furthermore, because of the heavy rains, 4 culverts have been destroyed and alluvial materials and tree trunks were brought on to the road.

               Due to this fact, the road was blocked, thus interrupting the care and maintenance of the forests, causing problems in the management of the young plantations, but also of the trees affected by the action of the biotic and abiotic factors. Also, resuming the access had a huge role for ensuring interventions in case of emergency situations, taking into account the 1500 ha of forest served by this road. Besides the negative effects on the environment, the destruction of the forest road has also caused material loss. The Grădiște Forest Range had to pay 325711.14 RON (68454.42 euros).

After this hazard, The Grădiște Forest Range has made the necessary approaches to rebuild the road and restore access to the affected area. During the rebuilding process, wood transport and forestry works have been prohibited for safety measures.

We received the technical information from the Grădiște Forest Range.