(Washington) Thousands of people were fleeing toxic fumes requiring the evacuation of their homes on Wednesday after a fire broke out at an abandoned plastic recycling plant in the northern United States.
The fire, which started on Tuesday, “spread to the two structures on the site and to an outdoor warehouse”, explained Dave Snow, mayor of the city of Richmond, in the state of Indiana, during 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.
An Environmental Protection Agency official said his teams were carrying out tests and had not yet found any toxic substances, but had not yet been able to check the interior of the evacuation zone 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, forcing some 2,000 people from their homes, according to authorities and American media.
According to city councilor Dave Snow, the city deemed the building unsafe 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 lambasted. “ He was negligent and irresponsible and that led to the endangerment of many people ”.
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.