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Six Hurt in Computer Plant Blast

October 9, 1998

MOSES LAKE, Wash. (AP) _ An explosion and fire at a computer industry plant sent potentially lethal fumes into the air and injured six workers, four of them in critical condition with lung problems.

There was no indication of what caused the explosion late Thursday at Advanced Silicon Materials, Inc., about six miles east of here.

It sent up a cloud of silicon tetrachloride gas, which can burn the skin and eyes on contact and burn internally if inhaled, said Sam Lorenz of Grant County Emergency Management.

Emergency officials ordered residents living within a mile of the plant to stay indoors, he said. No evacuations were ordered.

``There was no time,″ Lorenz said.

The plant employs about 400 workers. It makes products used to make silicon computer chips.

The injured workers, age 24 to 54 years old, were taken to Samaritan Hospital in Moses Lake, said hospital spokeswoman Connie Opheikens.

Four with respiratory problems were transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where they were listed in critical condition today. The other two were treated at Samaritan and released.

The company said plant workers were able to immediately extinguish the fire. ``No hazard to the community has been detected,″ the company said in a news release. The gas release was contained at 11:20 p.m., the company said.

Emergency crews used fog machines to knock the gas cloud to the ground, Lorenz said.

When the gas makes contact with air, it dissipates into fume silica, a sand-like material, and hydrogen chloride, the company said. Hydrogen chloride can cause a burning irritation if inhaled.

There was no answer at the plant’s telephone number early today.

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