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Northgate, Dixons rocked by oil depot blast

3Com hit too

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The HQ of IT services outfit Northgate Information Solutions has been seriously damaged following yesterday's massive blast at the Buncefield oil depot in Hemel Hempstead.

Four Northgate employees were on-site at the time of the explosion which happened shortly after 6.00am Sunday morning, blowing out windows for miles around and sending a massive plume of black acrid smoke into the air.

All four are safe. Three of the four were taken to hospital but have since been discharged.

In a statement the IT company, which provides software and IT services for HR and public sector groups, said: "The fabric of the building and the fixtures and equipment inside have been badly damaged.

"The back-up systems that were in place have also been rendered inoperable. Northgate's ability to service its customers has therefore been temporarily affected.

"As a result, its well developed and previously rehearsed business continuity plan has been initiated. This will allow Northgate to restore its services using remote data centres and the other offices that Northgate has around the country."

Elsewhere, electronics retailer DSG International - which trades as Dixons, Currys and PC World - has also closed its Hemel Hempstead HQ following yesterday's blast. It reports that all staff are safe and that there has been "no disruption to trading" with "all stores and business systems operational".

"DSGi runs its central UK administrative functions from offices adjacent to the Hemel Hempstead oil refinery. These offices have been closed on the instructions of the authorities and under the company's contingency plans central business functions are being run from alternative sites," it said in a statement.

3Com - the voice and data networking outfit - also has its European HQ in Hemel Hempstead and has "no report of any employee casualties or injuries". It has already activated back-up systems and "anticipates minimal impact on its customers as it works to restore full business operations". Some 300 people work at the site, which is just a quarter of a mile from the oil depot.

Fashion e-tailer ASOS's warehouse was damaged by the fire, the company said today. Trading in ASOS's shares has been suspended and the company has suspended its website until it ascertains the extent of the damage.

24 hours after the initial explosions fire crews have now been given the thumbs up to start tackling the giant inferno. ®

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