Plant explosion in Apex, North Carolina

Friday, October 6, 2006

Up to 17,000 people are being evacuated in Apex, North Carolina after a chlorine gas leak occurred during a Hazardous Waste facility explosion and fire.

Residents are advised to keep windows closed, turn off all air conditioning and that tenderness of the mouth, gagging and nausea are typical signs of poisoning. They are advised to stay away from the fire and any smoke, as it could be a health hazard. CNN reports that air quality tests run by the NCDENR indicate nothing especially harmful in the air near the plant.

Area residents are being advised to call 919-856-7044 for general information as 911 lines are overloaded. Bruce Radford, manager of the town in suburban Raleigh, said that the business district, schools and the town hall will remain closed on Friday.

No fatalities have been reported. WRAL-TV reported that 90 residents of a nearby nursing care facility were moved to a local hospital as a precautionary measure. About 20 Apex residents were reported to have been treated and released for respiratory symptoms related to exposure.

Officials are presently unsure of the cause. The fire and subsequent explosions started sometime after 9 p.m. EST Thursday, October 5.

Changing weather conditions in the area threaten additional evacuations. A section of State Highway 55 has been shut down near the incident.

The company, Environmental Quality of Wayne, Michigan, had been warned and fined $32,000 by state regulators in March of 2006 for hazardous conditions at the plant, which temporarily stores hazardous materials including chlorine, pesticides, and PCBs.

WRAL-TV reports that Sulfur, Oxidizers, Chlorine, Pesticides and PCBs were stored in the facility.

Fire crews from Cary, Apex, Raleigh, Wake County and Fairview are assisting in the effort. However, there is no effort to fight the fire as it would be too dangerous to firefighting personnel. It will eventually burn itself out.

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