Leamington Spa fire: Person missing after explosions at industrial blaze

  • Published
Media caption,

A huge plume of thick, dark smoke fills the sky while residents report chemical smells

Emergency crews are searching for a missing person after a huge fire at a plastics manufacturer.

Homes were evacuated after the blaze at Leeson Polyurethanes Ltd in Leamington Spa caused explosions and reports of a strong chemical smell.

A large plume of black smoke began to billow from the site on Friday morning and was visible from miles around.

The missing individual is an employee and his family have been kept informed, Warwickshire Police said.

Supt Mike Smith described the fire at the site on Juno Drive as "incredibly challenging" and said all other staff were safe.

The company published a short statement on its website saying there had been "a major incident at the premises".

Police said everyone within 100m of the site had been evacuated, with those living within 500m advised to shut windows and doors.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Residential properties neighbour the site

One member of the public said his family were given masks to wear when neighbouring premises were evacuated.

There were additional reports of debris in the air and on the ground.

Chief fire officer Barnaby Briggs, from Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service, said there were explosions caused by vats of chemicals caught in the flames.

He said the blaze was contained, but would take several days to put out fully.

Supt Smith said eight people so far had been evacuated from their homes. Most were able to stay with other family members, but he said the local authority was also involved in the operation.

Asked when they might be able to return to their homes, he said he could not say and it depended on how well the investigation progressed.

Image source, George Davies
Image caption,
Thick plumes of smoke could be seen near the town centre

Resident Anna Harrington-Ridley said she heard the explosions and was walking to work in nearby Whitnash when she first saw smoke at about 10:30 BST.

"I saw a little plume of smoke and thought it might be the allotments but it quickly got a lot darker and a lot bigger in the space of about two minutes and I realised it was definitely something a bit more serious," she said.

"I was stood down there at the end of the road that has been blocked off and you could see the massive plume of smoke, there was fire, explosions, all sorts of things."

She added there was a "strong chemical smell".

Media caption,

Footage shows the scale of the fire at a plastics manufacturer

Resident Ben Coleman also reported an odour and explosive sounds.

"There's a bit of a smell," he said. "I heard small explosions - nothing too big, it was a few, like, pops.

"I could see a big dark cloud, and I thought it was a thunderstorm, then I looked to my right and saw a big plume of smoke coming up from the building.

"Police had closed off the road leading to it, because it is in an industrial estate. [A] Lot of other places had got their staff out of the buildings."

Image source, Thomas/Helimed 53
Image caption,
The fire as seen from an air ambulance

Carl Brown, from Rugby, was with his family at a trampoline park near the site when fire broke out.

"The trampoline park staff were really good, they got everybody out, the kids out, gave us all masks and everything," he said.

"We all put the masks on and as soon as we went outside we could see this huge black smoke and fire and stuff, and there was debris all over the car park."

Mr Brown said he could still see the smoke when he arrived home, approximately a 30-minute drive away.

At the scene, BBC Midlands Today correspondent Giles Latcham tweeted to say there appeared to be polystyrene falling from the sky.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Kevin Hughes said he too was working from home when he noticed the sky had turned grey.

"I saw some post in the local Facebook group and when I walked to the back [of my property] I could see this massive plume of grey smoke floating over," he said.

Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service was joined at the scene by colleagues from West Midlands Fire Service and other neighbouring crews.

West Midlands Ambulance Service said it was called at 10:38 BST, and one ambulance, a paramedic officer and a Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) attended.

In a statement issued on Friday afternoon, it said it had treated no patients.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Flame as well as smoke dominated the sky
Image source, Johnathan Branson
Image caption,
The smoke could be seen billowing above The Parade in Leamington Spa

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