Los Angeles, Jun 14 (EFE).- An explosion and chemical fire Monday at a plant producing industrial lubricants in the midwestern United States forced the evacuation of hundreds of people.
Firefighters went to the Chemtool Inc. facility in Rockton, Illinois, at around 7:00 am after receiving a report of smoke inside the structure, Fire Chief Kirk Wilson said.
“Mandatory evacuation ordered due to Industrial Fire at Chem Tool for residents and businesses immediately south,” Rockton Police said on Twitter.
Huge columns of smoke billowed from the plant.
Authorities were concerned to avert the potential of “an environmental nightmare” as a result of a run-off of chemicals from the plant into the Rock River, about 300 m (330 yards) away, Wilson said.
He said that all the employees were quickly evacuated and that a firefighter hospitalized with breathing difficulties had been sent home after tests.
The evacuation order applied to roughly 1,000 people, according to Trisha Diduch, planning and development administrator for Rockton, northwest of Chicago.
Chemtool pledged to cooperate with officials “to determine what happened and identify any corrective actions.”
“Our concern right now is for the safety of all our employees and the surrounding community,” the company said in a statement.
Specialists from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were at the site to monitor air quality and collect samples for analysis, EPA spokeswoman Rachel Bassler said Monday afternoon.
While local authorities urged people within a 3-mile (5 km) radius of the plant to wear masks outdoors, the fire chief sought to reassure residents that the air was safe to breathe.
“At this point in time there is no danger to air quality level at ground level,” Wilson said. EFE asl/dr