The Malta Independent 15 July 2024, Monday
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Updated (6): Major fire at Wasteserv's Maghtab facility; smoke seen from all over Malta

Kevin Schembri Orland Friday, 31 August 2018, 07:14 Last update: about 7 years ago

A large fire broke out at Wasteserv's Maghtab facility this morning, the police confirmed with The Malta Independent.

Nobody was injured, the police said.

The Civil Protection Department was earlier asking people to avoid the area, and for residents of Magħtab, Naxxar and San Gwann to keep their windows shut.  The situation has now changed. It previously said drivers should also avoid the Coast Road and surrounding roads.

The fire resulted in a massive cloud of black smoke. The CPD in its latest statement, said that the fire is under control and now the Civil Protection Department officials "are in a cooling process. It is an intense operation and it will take time, but at least the areas we mentioned before are safe and now the residents can open the closed windows."

In a statement, the department said that at 5.50am it had been informed about the fire and quickly despatched firemen to the area.

A CPD spokesperson said that the fire will in all probability take all day to contain and extinguish. The Civil Protection Department has amassed ten fire engines on site with more than thirty personnel. 

Maghtab will continue to receive waste as normal.

Wasteserv CEO Tonio Montebello said the fire occurred in the Landfill, but would not comment further.

In another statement, the Health Authorities said that people who have heart or lung diseases, like heart disease, lung disease, or asthma, were at higher risk from exposure.

Head of the Maghtab residents Association John Portelli, speaking with The Malta Independent, said that the residents have gotten fed up objecting when it comes to safety concerns. He said that they are often told there is no risk yet experience has thought them otherwise.

He said that they are always told that the risk is minimum, "yet the amount of fires in Wasteserv plants is without precedent". He said that there have been a  number of huge fires at Maghtab in the past, in addition to the fire at Marsascala. "Its not a matter of if, but of when," he said referring to fires.

He said that while Wasteserv claims the old landfill is closed, material is still dumped on the residents side. "A more permanent solution to reduce landfills to a minimum is needed."

To decrease risk from exposure to smoke, persons living in the vicinity are advised to: Stay indoors and keep indoor air as clean as possible; Keep windows and doors closed; Contact your doctor if you experience any health effects such as shortness of breath and other respiratory symptoms; Pay attention to advice released by the Civil Protection Department; Further communities may be affected depending on the wind direction.


    Maghtab fire from The Malta Independent on Vimeo.

    Asked about possible concerns regarding the upcoming incinerator, he said that incinerators are a problem wherever they are built. He said that the residents have already voiced their concerns on the incinerator and he does not think it is the solution. The incinerator does not encourage people to reduce waste, he said. He also said that there are always safety concerns, as there were with the biodigester. He said that till today, many questions by residents on the biodigester remain unanswered, such as the safety zone in case of explosion. 

    This is the second major fire in a Wasteserv facility in as many years, as a fire had engulfed part of the Marsascala plant on 22 May 2017.

    The smoke plume can be seen from most of Malta, as photos uploaded on Facebook (below) show. People on the social media said that the plume not only covered areas in the immediate vicinity of Maghtab, such as Sliema, St Julian's Gharghur and San Gwann, but also places further away such as Fgura, Kalkara, Vittoriosa and Zabbar.

    PN Spokesperson for the environment Jason Azzopardi has called for the resignation of the Wasteserv board.

    But the Labour Party was quick to react to his partisan comments, saying that it is shameful for exponents from the Opposition to speak up in the way he did at the same time that members of the Civil Protection Department were risking their life to put out the blaze.

    "Instead of supporting these workers, people like Jason Azzopardi, Beppe Fenech Adami and Simon Busuttil were restoring to partisan comments when they still do not know what caused the blaze. It is another case when the PN was more interested in scoring points than the security of the people. The PL thanked all those involved in their work at Maghtab."




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