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Fire causes chemical cloud to descend

Sandwell | News | Published:

A cloud of toxic smoke was this afternoon billowing through Oldbury after a fire broke out at a chemical plant.

Local people have been warned not to go out unless it is unavoidable and have been warned to keep windows and doors closed as the 50ft by 400ft phosphorous cloud drifts across Langley towards the M5.

In total 50 firefighters in chemical suits were fighting the blaze at Rhodia UK Limited in Trinity Street, after the emergency services were called to reports of a "chemical incident" at 12.20pm. Police with loudhailers were patrolling the local area in cars warning residents to stay inside and a cordon has been set up around the factory, part of which was evacuated.

Two crews from Oldbury and firefighters from Smethwick and West Bromwich were amongst those fighting the fire.

Mick Birch, group manager in community safety at West Midlands Fire Service, who was at the scene of the blaze, said: "There are a total of 10 machines here tackling the fire in the phosphene plant, which is being brought under control at the moment.

"It has been caused by a small leak from a process using phosphorous, causing a small fire as phosphorus gas reacts with air.

The chemical reacts badly if it comes into contact with water and residents were urged to avoid having baths or showers until it disperses.

The fire service carried out a phased evacuation of part of the site. Neil Wenlock, aged 54, who runs Wenlock Butchers in Langley High Street, said: "I'm quite shocked to see the fire.

"The whole area is empty and the police are constantly driving round telling people to stay indoors so my custom looks like it has gone for the day. I just hope nobody was injured."

Rhodia's Oldbury site takes up 60 acres close to junction 2 of the M5. It employs 400 staff and has 12 production plants.

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