Fire rips through Ekranas plant

  • 2002-10-10
  • Rokas M. Tracevskis

The most serious fire in the history of Lithuanian industry broke out at the premises of the Ekranas TV tube production plant in the northern Lithuanian city of Panevezys on the afternoon of Oct. 3.

It took 16 hours for fire fighters to extinguish the blaze which damaged some 15,000 square meters of the factory's roof and sent a column of smoke billowing above the city.

Ekranas is the largest electronics producer in the Baltic states. The company estimated the cost of the damage at some 20 million litas (5.6 million euros).

Some 500 of the company's employees will be laid off temporarily in October, and its shares also suffered a slight drop in value. The blaze appears to have started when polyester used for packing caught fire.

Some 85 firefighters from Panevezys and the towns of Siauliai, Rokiskis and Birzai fought the fire with assistance from 80 soldiers serving in the Panevezys-based King Mindaugas Battalion. Two crews of military doctors were also sent to the scene and military helicopters were put on alert. There were no fatalities however, and all the company's employees were successfully evacuated.

One worker did suffer poisoning from toxic smoke and was rushed to hospital, while two others received help from first aiders at the premises, said Angelija Zokaitiene, head of Ekranas' public relations department.

The huge fire could be seen from miles around and thousands of people gathered at the building to check on friends and relatives working there.

Ekranas was due to start manufacturing large flat screens in 2004, and to increase production by one-third, requiring investments in excess of 122.5 million litas.

"The company's plan was to purchase new production line technology from the Japanese company Hitachi this month. There might be some delay because of the fire as the line was to be assembled in the room where the fire broke out. There were preparations under way to transport the line to Lithuania," said the company's director Vytautas Zabarskas.

But Algis Karoblis, director of Ekranas' personnel department, added: "Our company has insurance with a Swiss insurance company in Zurich. Ekranas is fully insured and covered for interruption of business for 12 months. Ekranas has not halted production operations and does not consider revising its annual profit and sales forecasts for 2002. We will go ahead with the large size true flat color picture tube production project, but it might be somewhat revised."

Ekranas said in March it planned to make a pretax profit of 35 million litas and to achieve a turnover of 500 million litas this year.

In response to the blaze Ekranas' shares fell in value by 5 percent to 6.27 litas per share on Oct. 4.

Ekranas' major shareholders include Farimex with 15.90 percent of the shares, CPT Investment with 14.26 percent, Profilio Sanayi Ve Ticaret with 12.90 percent and Henley Trading International with 8 percent.