Jet fuel rationed after depot fire
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Airlines at Heathrow have been put on fuel rationing in the wake of the oil depot explosions and fires north of London this week, the airport's operator said Friday.
The rationing, imposed by BAA, means some long-haul flights are having to make "pit stops" at another UK airport for more fuel.
Heathrow takes about one-third of its aviation fuel from the Buncefield oil depot at Hemel Hempstead, 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of London and the inferno there has forced BAA to put contingency plans into operation.
One Qantas flight from Heathrow to Sydney, Australia, is having to touch down at Stansted airport in Essex on Friday night for extra fuel. This will add around one hour 30 minutes to the journey to Australia via Bangkok.
South African Airways, which operates from Heathrow to Johannesburg and Cape Town, said it also expected one of its evening flights to make a refueling stop.
An airline spokesperson told the Press Association: "With a loss of one-third of the total fuel supplied to Heathrow, early indications suggest that the restrictions could run into a period of weeks if not months."
British Airways said it was coping with the fuel restrictions and was operating normally.
BAA said Friday long-haul carriers using Heathrow were being rationed to about two-thirds of their normal fuel supply while short-haul carriers were receiving half their normal supply.
BAA gets about a quarter of its Heathrow fuel from a depot at Fawley near Southampton and a further quarter from a facility at Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. Another 15 percent of fuel comes by rail.
The airport company has increased the amount of fuel from these other suppliers under contingency plans developed some time ago by local airline representatives through the Airline Operators Committee.
A BAA spokesman said: "The contingency plans have enabled us to stabilize supply and demand for fuel and continue near normal airport operations for the 186,000 passengers that fly to and from Heathrow every day with minor disruption to some passengers and no cancellation of flights."
On Tuesday, the fire brigade said it had doused the last of the major fuel-driven fires at Buncefield, the fifth-largest fuel depot in the UK, that had been burning since massive pre-dawn explosions Sunday.
The blasts injured 43 people, but Hertfordshire Chief Constable Frank Whiteley said all but two had been released from hospitals by Monday morning, and those two did not have life-threatening injuries.
Police said on Wednesday residents had begun returning to the area nearest the depot, which was evacuated after the blasts.
Authorities said it was still much too early to speculate on the cause of the blasts and subsequent fires but they believe they were an accident.
Residents of Hemel Hempstead, near the depot, reported hearing a loud boom about 6 a.m. Sunday. Two other blasts followed, British television network ITN reported, at 6:26 and 6:27 a.m.
Texaco owns 40 percent of Buncefield, but does not operate the facility. The other 60 percent is owned by Total, according to Texaco-Chevron UK and U.S.-based Texaco.
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