STAFF REPORTER INCA hospital is illegally situated too close to a gas storage plant, the Balearic Emergency and Public Safety Committee reported yesterday. Were there to be a gas explosion as a result of unloading accident at the plant at the side of Campo del Constancia football pitch in Inca, the building and grounds of the district hospital could be affected, as could the section of the motorway heading in the direction of Alcudia and part of the railway line running to Manacor, the Committee warned.

The propane gas plant run by power supply company Endesa has been operating without incident in Inca since 2007. However, the Emergency Committee's report has been commissioned at the request of the town council because plans are for a third industrial estate to be built right by the storage area. The research conducted by the Committee into the possibility of the construction of the estate in fact proved favourable but there was a clear statement in the text which emphasized that “there can be no granting of permits for the use of equipment or any kind of activity which might expose people working at the gas plant to any increased safety risk.” The area in question is a radius of 466 metres right round the installations of the gas storage area and includes the whole of the hospital precinct, a section of the motorway, part of the railway line, the Constancia and Sallista football grounds, part of the land on which the town council wants to build the third industrial estate and a small section of the commercial and residential area of Inca. Sources at both the town council and the regional ministry for the Interior yesterday denied that the installations of gas plant pose any risk to public safety - the tanks are apparently encased underground - but said that if there is any moment of risk, it would be during the time when lorries towing 20 tonne tankers are topping up the deposits.

Legal services at the town council have acknowledged that in theory, “all activity at the hospital, on the motorway and rail line should come to a halt during the filling operation.” But operational and legal technicians have said that if instead of 20 tonnes of gas being deposited at a time, the lorries were only to fill 5 tonnes, then the problem would be solved.

Emergency Director Jaume Coll gave assurances yesterday that both the regional government and town council are “addressing the issue,” adding that when the gas pipeline between Palma and Alcudia comes into operation, the gas storage plant will be shut down.