POOLE, England (AP) _ An explosion and fire ripped through a chemical processing plant in this southern England seaport Tuesday, injuring at least 14 people and forcing the evacuation of more than 2,000 residents, police said.

About 120 firefighters brought the blaze at BDH Chemicals under control within one hour, officials reported.

Dorset Police Supt. Bill Hanson said 14 people were treated at a hospital after inhaling fumes and were released.

Press Association, Britain's domestic news agency, reported that an elderly couple driving past the factory when an initial blast blew out a side wall were thrown out of their car by the impact. It said they were not seriously injured.

The blast shattered windows of nearby houses.

''There was one hell of a loud explosion,'' said Ken Wollan, who was working in a neighboring building. ''It shook this building right through. Drums of solvent were exploding, going through the roof and shooting 75 feet into the air. Cars on a service station forecourt were covered in bricks and blazing debris.''

Police said more than 2,000 people, many of them elderly, were evacuated from Poole Old Town, which dates to Roman times, when smoke passed over the district as it drifted out to sea.

Police said 11 different chemicals were involved in the fire, but it was not immediately known what type all of them were.

BDH Chemicals company secretary John Vass said firefighters had prevented the blaze from spreading to a corner of a warehouse where barrels of cyanide were stored.

He said some of the barrels that exploded contained chlorine solvents which, when set on fire, gave off highly irritating hydrogen chloride gas.

A police spokesman said residents were evacuated as a precaution while authorities attempted to determine the possible danger of chemical fumes.

The cause of the explosion was not immediately known, Dorset police spokesman Brian Jones said.

Poole is about 100 miles southwest of London.