Fallout of chemical fire uncertain

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A huge fire at a chemical plant in the south of the Netherlands was finally put out on Thursday evening after more than 30 hours of fire fighting.

The fire broke out on Wednesday afternoon at the Chemie Pack plant in Moerdijk. Small fires were still burning on Thursday. Huge plumes of smoke could be seen on satellite images and local residents were warned to stay inside and close their windows. Nobody was injured in the fire.

The management of the chemical plant has expressed its regret, but said "the company does not want to speculate on the cause until all the facts are known."

The toxicity of the substances that went up in flames is still not known. Initial measurements showed no exceptionally high levels of airborne toxins according to the National Institute of Health and the Environment. There are also no indications so far that carcinogenic dioxins formed or have spread. However, a crisis website stresses that these are initial measurements and residents have been advised not to venture outside unnecessarily.

The soot produced by the fire has spread across dozens of kilometres between Moerdijk in the south and Gouda in the centre of the Netherlands, but concentrations are low.

The mayor of neighbouring Dordrecht has warned people not to eat vegetables from their gardens, allow children to play in playgrounds or allow pets to roam freely. They have also been instructed to wipe their feet thoroughly when they go inside. Livestock should also be kept inside.

The local council was criticised by regional radio and television station Omroep Brabant, because the broadcaster, which functions as a crisis station during disaster, had to chase after information and felt it was not properly informed by the authorities.  


© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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