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Chemical Factory Afire in Britain

April 12, 2002

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LONDON (AP) _ A fire broke out at a chemical plant in northeastern England on Friday, sending acrid, black smoke into the air and prompting police to urge nearby residents to leave their homes.

No injuries were immediately reported at the Distillex plant in North Shields town, fire officials said.

One witness said the blaze was so large that smoke could be seen from Newcastle Airport about 15 miles away.

A half-mile exclusion zone was created by police around the factory, and authorities urged people living within it to go to the nearest public building.

A spokeswoman for the North East Ambulance Service said between 40 and 50 toxic chemicals were thought to be involved.

Adrian Jones, managing director of Distillex, told the British Broadcasting Corp. he believed the fire started in a garbage bin containing soiled rags. ``The operator tried to dampen it with a fire extinguisher but was unable to and as a result the fire spread,″ he was quoted as saying by BBC News Online.

North Shields is 275 miles north of London at the mouth of the River Tyne.

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