Homeowners and businesses affected by the Buncefield disaster head to the High Court today, for the start of a 13-week trial to determine who was liable for the disaster.

On Sunday, December 11, 2005, fuel storage tank 912, belonging to Hertfordshire Oil Storage Limited (HOSL) at the Buncefield Oil Terminal in Hemel Hempstead, overfilled, creating a large vapour cloud. This then ignited, triggering a series of explosions that caused massive damage to neighbouring homes and businesses.

Oil giant Total has already admitted some liability for the blast but will argue in court that compensation claims, thought to be around £700million, should be shared with Chevron. Total (60 per cent) and Chevron (40 per cent) are the owners of HOSL.

Chevron, meanwhile, will argue the day-to-day running of the plant was solely down to Total.

Total will also argue that TAV Engineers Ltd, as manufacturers of the high level alarm that failed, should contribute to the compensation.

Total said earlier this year that damage to buildings within 451 metres of the site could have been forseen, but now businesses and homeowners further than 451 metres will have to prove the damage and disruption they suffered was also forseeable.