Tank explodes at Alabama plant; no one injured

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

THEODORE, Ala. -- A tank exploded and caught fire at a chemical plant early Monday, producing clouds of acrid smoke, and emergency officials urged nearby residents to stay indoors until the fire died out.

No one was injured, officials said.

Fire crews were sent to the INEOS Phenolchemie plant several miles south of Mobile after 1 a.m.

"There were about three explosions and a large fire when we arrived," Mobile Fire-Rescue spokesman Steve Huffman said.

The blasts apparently involved a tank containing a mixture of acetone and sulfuric acid, Huffman said, but the exact cause of the fire and explosions was not immediately determined.

People south of the plant were urged to stay in their homes or offices, but the advisory was canceled by late morning after the fire burned itself out.

Patrick Earby said he saw thick, dark smoke bellowing from the plant when he drove to his nearby job at about 7:30 a.m.

"It was enough to make you want to roll up the windows," he said.

INEOS Phenolchemie, with headquarters in Germany, is one of the world's largest producers of phenol and acetone.

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