(TOKYO) — A large explosion rocked a chemical plant in the coastal Japanese city of Himeji, killing one firefighter, and injuring more than 30 workers.
Police said the blasts occurred as firefighters were trying to control a blaze that broke out at a plant operated by Nippon Shokubai Co. in the Hyogo Prefecture earlier in the day, forcing 500 workers to evacuate immediately.
Television footage showed the facility engulfed in flames, with billowing, black smoke visible, miles away.
“The explosion shook our doors so much, we thought it was an earthquake,” a resident living near the plant told broadcaster NHK.
A plant employee first noticed smoke, coming from one of its tanks around 2 p.m.
Firefighters were attempting to put out the blaze, when a tank containing acrylic acid exploded, according to Japanese media reports. That blast was followed by two other explosions.
A 28-year-old firefighter died of burns, while dozens of other workers, and first responders were seriously injured, Kyodo News reported.
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Georgia McCafferty and Junko Ogura, CNN
Holly Yan, David Williams and Steve Almasy, CNN