Fire at rare metals factory fills Sillamäe with toxic smoke

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A rare metals factory in Sillamäe caught fire on Tuesday. Source: (Screenshot/Youtube)

Molycorp Silmet's production facility in Sillamäe caught fire on Tuesday afternoon. Toxic smoke caused by the burning plastic and chemicals forced people inside and left six rescue workers with minor injuries.

Molycorp Silmet is one of the biggest rare metal and rare earth metal producers in Europe. A fire in its manufacturing facilities in Sillamäe, northeastern Estonia, which employs about 550 people, was reported at 15:45 on Tuesday afternoon. The roof and two top stories collapsed, leaving firefighters unable to enter the building and having to put out the fire from the outside.

The toxic smoke from burning plastic spread in 2 kilometer radius of the factory. People were told to stay indoors to avoid contamination for such smoke has the potential of causing respiratory problems. Anyone in the area experiencing trouble breathing or irritation to respiratory tract should call the poisoning information hotline 16662 or turn to the local healthcare provider.

According to deputy director general of the Rescue Board Alo Tammsalu, no employees or locals were seriously hurt in the accident but 40 people have so far called the poisoning information hotline to complain of sore throat, reported. However, several firefighters were injured during the rescue operation. Four returned to work soon after, while two needed treatment.

Molycorp Silmet said the five-story building on fire was used to manufacture rare metals tantalum and niobium. Altogether, there were 135 tons of chemicals stored in the building.

The blaze was under control at 02:00 in the morning but has broke out again twice since then. Two small fires were reported at 04:04 and 08:59. The rescue services remain at the scene to monitor the situation.

Editor: M. Oll

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