After massive explosions at a fuel storage site destroyed much of its infrastructure on Sunday, a major U.K. IT provider is restoring data and setting up new hardware at other facilities throughout England.
The early-morning blasts at the Buncefield oil depot, 25 miles northwest of London, injured three employees of Northgate Information Solutions who were working in the company's headquarters close to the depot.
The force of the blast heavily damaged the building, blackening and collapsing one side and leaving debris strewn around the site. Inside, computer systems that provide payroll and human resource services for private companies, servers hosting organizational Web sites and hosted services for local governments, police, fire and health services were destroyed.
Northgate provides IT services to about 90 percent of local U.K. governmental entities and police forces. Other major clients include Tesco, a major grocery retailer in the U.K.; the Labor Party, and the soccer team Manchester United.
The 150,000-square-foot building sustained at least "several million pounds" worth of damage, Northgate Chief Executive Officer Chris Stone said in an interview on Monday with the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC). Stone estimated about 20 percent of Northgate's operations were affected. The building was insured, and no damaged estimate is available.
However, data losses appear to be minimal. As part of its normal procedures, data was recorded to tape and picked up from the headquarters building every day at 7 a.m. and taken to a Northgate storage facility.
The tapes from Saturday were ready to be picked up when the accident occurred. Data from Sunday was also destroyed.
The data, which may have included information from five hospitals that Northgate provides hosted patient administration services to, will have to be recompiled. Some hospitals keep written records while others store electronic data locally, officials said. That data is later collected and held by Northgate.
The company has set up new hardware systems at its 25 facilities throughout the U.K to replace the destroyed ones. Northgate also has contracts with third parties to provide server storage. Northgate said it has nearly completed setting up replacement hardware.
The force of the explosion was so strong that a buried back-up generator with its own fuel supply was ripped out of the ground, Stone said in the BBC interview.
Since the headquarters will be unavailable for at least a year, Northgate has moved its operations to it central London office, Stone said.
Thick, black smoke from the 20 burning fuel tanks was visible throughout the week in satellite photos. Officials are unsure what caused the blaze and fear clues to it may have been destroyed by the intense flames that burned for several days.