(Washington) More than 2,000 Americans have been evacuated after a fire at an abandoned plastic recycling plant in the northern United States released potentially toxic fumes, authorities said Wednesday.

The fire, which started on Tuesday, “spread to both site structures and an outdoor warehouse,” Dave Snow, mayor of the city of Richmond, Indiana, told a press conference. .

“It was a factory that collected plastic and other materials for recycling or resale,” he said.

Large plumes of black smoke were visible in footage released by authorities.

“The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is on the ground collecting debris samples from surrounding homes to determine if any asbestos-containing materials may have been thrown off-site,” its director said. , Michael Regan.

A local EPA official also said that his teams had not yet found any toxic substances during their air tests, but that they had not yet been able to control the interior of the area. evacuation as a safety measure.

Indiana State Fire Chief Steve Jones told local media on Tuesday that the smoke was “toxic.” He added Wednesday that, although contained, the blaze would continue to burn for several days.

An evacuation zone of 800 km around the site has been decreed, which concerns at least 2011 people, the Wayne County Disaster Management Agency told AFP.

According to the mayor Dave Snow, the city had judged that the building which caught fire was not safe and ordered its owner to bring it up to standard, without success.

“The owner of this company is fully responsible for all of this,” he blasted. “He was negligent and irresponsible and that led to the endangerment of many people.”

US President Joe Biden, traveling in Europe, expressed his support on Wednesday by telephone to Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, offering him an additional federal assistant.

This disaster comes two months after the derailment in Ohio of a train carrying chemicals, including vinyl chloride, a carcinogenic and highly flammable chemical used in the manufacture of plastic.

The huge fire and then the controlled releases of this substance, carried out by the railway authorities to avoid a possible explosion, had led to some 2000 evacuations and raised fears of serious environmental consequences.