Source AP ©

Chemical plant explosion thunders in Iowa

An explosion and fire at a chemical plant northeast of Des Moines forced officials to close two interstate freeways.

Sheriff's Chief Deputy Neil Schultz said one minor injury was reported and all the plant's employees were accounted for.

The explosion at the Barton Solvents plant was reported at 1:15 p.m., and nearly two hours later was burning out of control, said A.J. Mumm, coordinator for the Polk County Emergency Management Agency.

Flames and clouds of black smoke soared above the plant, and exploding barrels could be seen jetting into the sky. Mumm said 55-gallon (208-liter) barrels and 300-gallon (1,136-liter) tanks were exploding and that there were concerns about loaded rail cars and truck tanks on the site.

Police closed freeways near the fire. "There is thick smoke and they're concerned drivers can't see," said Dena Gray-Fisher, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Transportation. "There's also toxic fumes associated with chemicals and they're going to do some testing of the area."

The smoke could be clearly seen from five miles (eight kilometers) away in downtown Des Moines.

Barton Solvents Inc. is a wholesale distributor of industrial chemicals, oils and surfactants.

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