Work to start on helping Murco workers after deal collapse
Work is under way to help hundreds of staff affected by the "devastating" collapse of a deal to sell Pembrokeshire's Murco oil refinery.
A task force of politicians will meet next week to discuss a way forward, while Pembrokeshire council has vowed to help workers find new jobs.
The sale of the firm to the Swiss-based Klesch Group was called off on Tuesday night.
Abound 60 of 400 jobs will remain at the Milford Haven site.
The collapse comes after months of work behind the scenes which saw close co-operation between the Welsh and UK governments.
The refinery will now enter a shut-down period and will be decommissioned while the company looks for a new buyer.
In addition to its own workforce, the refinery employs a further 200 contractors and is understood to support a further 4,200 jobs in the area.
Economy Minister Edwina Hart warned the deal collapse would have implications for the wider economy.
She told BBC Radio Wales her priority was to help the Murco workforce and their communities in Pembrokeshire.
She said she was setting up a task force to look at how new jobs could be attracted to the area and how the Welsh government could help people into new employment.
"Pembrokeshire and those individuals require help and assistance now," she said.
Some say the ripple effect on the economy is already being felt.
Janice Morgan of West Wales Properties in Milford Haven said: "We have had one vendor look to withdraw his house - he works at Murco.
"Some people will have to sell because they're not working and cannot afford the mortgage."
Pembrokeshire council leader Jamie Adams said work would now start to find a way to help those who have lost their jobs, adding: "We will try and find some opportunities out of this dire situation."
Local councillor Huw George said the task force would be up and running next week and Jobcentre Plus would hold a jobs fair.
"There may be opportunities on the near horizon which may not replace the quality or number of jobs," he said.
"But we are as a council and as south west Wales region are always looking to entice businesses to the area.
"We're just going to work harder to ensure they come sooner rather than later."
Among those to lend his support to the community is Welsh Secretary and local MP Stephen Crabb, due to hold a surgery for workers on Friday.
Professor Max Munday: "Major impact"
Professor Max Munday, from the Welsh Economy Research Unit, who produced a report on the economic activity in the Milford Haven area in 2012, said the refinery's closure would have a big impact locally.
"It's one of Wales' biggest exporters. It exports close to £2.5bn of output from Wales a year," he said.
"It will have quite a big impact on household incomes in the area, that will be felt by local shops and businesses.
"For some of the workers, the most highly skilled occupations, I don't doubt there will be opportunities in other parts of the UK and overseas, in the Middle East and India.
"The plant provides something very needful for the Welsh economy - it provides full time, highly skilled, quite highly paid employment.
"It's hard to see where that gap is going to be bridged into the future."
Eric Ronald Harries, the mayor of Milford Haven, said a large cloud had hung over the plant for the past six months, but everyone had been hopeful of a good outcome.
"Sadly, we've had shocking news," he said.
"Still we cling to a desperate hope something can be done at this late hour. While we quote numbers, we are really dealing with people and families."
But Bryan Kelly, vice-president of UK operations for Murco, said he did not hold out any hope of a fresh deal with Klesch and said it was the end of the road for the plant after four years of trying to secure a deal.
He told BBC Radio Wales: "We've visited with literally dozens of buyers, we've given many management presentations, we've engaged seriously with more than one buyer and feel we've done all we possibly can to find a new owner."
He said the situation had been very difficult for staff but they were being offered support and a minimum of 30 weeks pay in a redundancy package.