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Tuesday, 1 October, 2002, 16:09 GMT 17:09 UK
Chemical fire firm admits safety errors
Flames and smoke from Distillex
More than 500 residents were evacuated
A chemical company has pleaded guilty to safety lapses which caused a major fire on Tyneside.

Senior officials from Distillex admitted two safety breaches when they appeared before North Tyneside magistrates on Tuesday.

But magistrates immediately referred the case to a crown court judge after deciding the maximum 40,000 fine they could impose was not enough.

More than 500 people were evacuated after a series of explosions at the plant in North Shields in April.

Smoke from Distillex fire
Smoke from the fire could be seen 20 miles away

The fire at the Distillex plant, which burned to the ground, caused a major alert on Tyneside.

An initial explosion led to a cloud of toxic fumes hanging over Tyneside.

Distillex, which is based in Lancashire, has since closed the factory.

At its height a half-mile exclusion zone was established forcing people to leave their homes because of fears for their health.

Fumes and smoke from the fire spread across the region and it took 25 crews five hours to bring the incident under control.

Residents living around the factory were given medical advice.

It is thought the fire was caused by a spark, which ignited flammable material in a skip and the fire then ran out of control.

In a series of explosions, containers and drums were thrown into the air.

As the fire took hold, thick billowing smoke could be seen more than 20 miles away.

The factory employed 12 people and contained up to 50 different types of chemicals.

The Lancashire-based firm recycles solvents used in industry.

The plant was at the centre of a similar alert in January when a cloud of toxic vaporised methylene chloride was released after chemicals overheated.


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13 Apr 02 | England
12 Apr 02 | England
30 Jan 02 | England
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