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Explosion At Brazil’s Largest Steel Plant Cripples Production

May 4, 1989

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) _ An explosion at Brazil’s largest steel plant injured five workers and seriously damaged the company’s largest blast furnace, a company official said today.

The blast crippled 70 percent of production at the government-run National Steel Company in Volta Redonda, 80 miles west of Rio, said company spokesman Marciano Machado.

He said it was not known what caused the blast at the plant, which produces 4.6 million tons of steel a year, almost 20 percent of Brazil’s annual production. ″We believe it was caused by an accumulation of gas in the blast furnace,″ Machado said.

The plant, which employs 22,000 workers, has been the scene of labor unrest in the past. Last year, three striking steelworkers were killed when army troops stormed the plant occupied by more than 1,000 laborers.

On Tuesday, a monument honoring the three was destroyed by a bomb. No group claimed responsibility in the attack on the statue, designed by Brazil’s best known architect, Oscar Niemeyer.

It had been dedicated during May Day celebrations Monday.

Machado said there was ″absolutely no connection″ between Tuesday’s bombing and Wednesday’s explosion.

The plant’s other two blast furnaces were operating normally today, and the company hoped to have repairs completed within ten days, Machado said.

The Volta Redonda plant exports 1.3 million tons of steel per year.

Machado said the damaged blast furnace produces 7,400 tons of pig iron a day, 70 percent of the plant’s total.

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