Fire at Dutch chemical plant flares up again

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The massive fire at a chemical plant in the town of Moerdijk near Rotterdam has flared up again.

Earlier, the fire department believed the fire had been brought under control, but the flames are once again shooting up dozens of metres into the sky. The police say that another warehouse may have caught fire. Journalists are now being kept far away from the fire, whereas earlier today they were still at liberty to move about.

The highest level alarm has been declared in the south of the province of South Holland because of the massive fire at a chemical plant which belongs to the Chemie-Pack company. A huge cloud of toxic black smoke is drifting north and has already reached the town of Dordrecht. Residents in the area are being advised to stay indoors and keep their doors and windows closed.

There have been no reports of any severe injuries thus far. It's also not known what started the fire, which is being accompanied by explosions and jets of flame. One or more storage tanks at the plant may have exploded. Large quantities of flammable, toxic and corrosive material are stored on the industrial estate where the Chemie-Pack plant is located.

The fire brigade has deployed hundreds of fire fighters to battle the blaze and the Shell company firebrigade is lending assistance. The defence ministry has sent to two special fire engines with water cannon on their roofs to the disaster area, and the justice ministry has activated the Landelijk Operationeel Coördinatiecentrum (National Operational Coordination Centre).

The fire has meanwhile spread to the Wärtsilä plant, a company which produces parts for diesel engines. Two exits of the A17 motorway near Moerdijk have been closed and shipping on the nearby Hollandsch Diep and Oude Maas waterways has been halted.

Chemie-Pack, which packages and stores chemicals, started operations on a 20,000-square-metre site in Moerdijk in 1982.

The Dutch Safety Board has launched an investigation into the fire in Moerdijk. A spokesperson for the Board says that researchers have already begun collecting data. The Dutch Safety Board will investigate the cause and backgrounds of the fire, as well as the effectiveness of the emergency services. 

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