A fire broke out on Thursday afternoon at Mazeikiu Nafta (Mazeikiai Oil), the largest oil refinery in the Baltic States. No one has been hurt, and the plant continues to operate. PKN Orlen, the Polish Energy Company, which is in the process of purchasing Mazeikiu, claims fowl play but still plans on going through with the deal.
Workers at a nearby timber company said that the fire was very big, adding that the blaze was reaching a height of 150-meters at one point. They said the area was covered in smoke, and the blaze could be seen from several kilometers away.
The fire at the oil refinery broke out at 2:32 p.m., on Thursday. The 16 year-old fuel vacuum distillation unit at the company's diesel division caught fire causing oil products to spread out over 800 square meters and then catch fire.
In addition to Mazeikiu Nafta's internal fire unit, large units from Klaipeda, Telsiai and Siauliai were also dispatched to the scene.
A total of 100 fire-fighters worked throughout the night, and as of Friday morning, 41 fire fighters and 16 fire engines were still working to put out small fires and to cool the site, the Fire and Rescue Department told the Baltic News Service.
Mazeikiai Oil's spokesman confirmed to the Baltic News Service that the rest of the plant continued to operate, and employees returning to work at the unaffected areas of the plant on Friday.
The Baltic News Service reported that unofficial sources at Poland's OKN Orlen said that PKN Orlen's management has been informed about the fire and does not believe that it is an accident.
In spite of the intrigue surrounding the fire, both sides say that the pending sale is proceeding as planned. "The loss of one unit cannot have an impact on the closing of the transaction," said Mazeikiu Nafta Chairman Nerijus Eidukevicius.
In a statement issued on Thursday, PKN Orlen expressed its will to closely cooperate with the Lithuanian government and Yukos International in tackling fire-related problems.
"PKN Orlen is ready to cooperate closely with the Lithuanian government and Yukos International UK to resolve this situation," the Polish group said in a statement late on Thursday.
"PKN Orlen will analyze the impact of this incident in detail and how it might effect the operating capacity of the Mazeikiu refinery and the company's profitability," the company said.
The damages from the fire are estimated at millions of litas, and the plant's operations could be affected for the next two years.
The Verslo Zinios business daily reported that that it might take up to one year for Mazeikiu to completely restore production after the fire, and that the effects of the blaze will be felt for at least two years.
The Vilnius stock exchange stopped trading of Mazeikiu stock, siting the protection of the company as the real extent of the damage is known, and various members of the government have swooped in to Mazeikai to look into the situation.
Interior Minister Raimondas Sukys is calling a meeting of the extreme situations commission on Friday, and a governmental task force has also been set up to look into the circumstances of the fire.
Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas today is on his way to Mazeikiai on Friday, and Economy Minister Vytas Navickas expected to arrive at the refinery in the afternoon.