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Workers Injured in La. Blast

July 5, 1999

GRAMERCY, La. (AP) _ A blast that was heard for miles shook an aluminum plant early today, injuring at least 15 workers and prompting authorities to tell residents to stay indoors and close their windows.

There were no immediate reports of fatalities at the Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Co. plant, said Lt. Mike Edmonson, a Louisiana State Police spokesman.

The 5:15 a.m. blast caused a natural gas leak and sent a red substance identified as bauxite flying into the air, Edmonson said.

``We have reports it was seen up to a mile away,″ Edmonson said.

Authorities were warning residents not to touch the substance, which looks like red mud, Edmonson said. Bauxite is the claylike ore from which aluminum is obtained.

The plant is about a mile from a residential area and about 40 miles west of New Orleans.

WJBO-AM reported that 20 workers were taken to hospitals for treatment, but Edmonson know of only 15 people injured. The injuries ranged from severe burns to difficulty breathing and eye irritation, the radio station reported.

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