WARSAW, Ind. (AP) _ At least 14 people were hurt, several critically, when an explosion and fire ripped through a foundry early today, authorities said.

The explosion occurred about 2:45 a.m. at Dalton Foundries Inc., when a water pipe ruptured and mixed with gray iron being produced in one of the foundry's furnaces, said Bob Robinson, owner of BOMAR Security, which provides security at the plant.

A fire that developed from the explosion was extinguished by 5 a.m., he said.

Many of the injured suffered third-degree burns, said Linda Olinger, a nursing supervisor at Kosciusko Community Hospital, where some of the victims were being treated.

The most critically burned were being transferred by helicopter and ambulance to a burn unit about 40 miles to the east in Fort Wayne.

``At this point, we're expecting up to 14 arrivals and as many as seven that are critical,'' said Mark Hisey, director of facilities at St. Joseph Medical Center.

The foundry, which makes gray-iron castings from scrap metal, employs about 700 people.