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Blast in Britain hits IT offices

Northgate and 3Com offices are damaged by explosions from oil depot in town northwest of London. Photos: Buncefield refinery fire

Technology companies were among the businesses that suffered damage in the massive explosions at the oil depot near Hemel Hempstead this weekend.

Northgate Information Solutions, whose Web site is down as of this posting, said its head office building was "seriously damaged" by explosions at the Buncefield Oil Terminal, in the Dacorum borough just northwest of London. The company provides IT services to the human resources and public-sector markets.

Buncefield refinery fire

Four Northgate employees were on site at the time of the explosion, and all were accounted for soon after the incident. Three were injured and hospitalized but have since been discharged, the company said.

The fabric of the building, as well as the the fixtures and equipment inside, have been "badly damaged," Northgate said, adding that the "back-up systems that were in place have also been rendered inoperable."

In a statement, the company said, "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 centers and the other offices that Northgate has around the country."

The company said its financial exposure "is limited by its insurance policies that provide sufficient cover for the building and its contents, as well as for any business interruption."

Northgate said the long-term impact of this incident is "unlikely to be material."

Networking company 3Com said its EMEA headquarters were also damaged in the explosions but that there were no reports of employee casualties or injuries.

"The company's emergency response team has initiated communication with all employees and contractors, and has activated its back-up systems to ensure business continuity," 3Com said in a statement. "The company currently anticipates minimal impact on its customers as it works to restore full business operations."

The company said about 300 staff members worked at the site--about a quarter of a mile from the blasts. The workers are mainly in its sales, marketing and product operations groups.

In addition to Northgate and 3Com, online fashion retailer ASOS said its warehouse also had been damaged by the explosions and that until it understands the scope of the damage, it has decided to suspend all services on its Web site.

Steve Ranger of reported from London.