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Wednesday, 27 March, 2002, 07:23 GMT
Inquiries into new Corus plant blazes
The Corus steel plant in Port Talbot
Corus has pledged to rebuild the wrecked furnace
An investigation is underway after a series of small fires at the Corus steelworks in Port Talbot, south Wales on Tuesday.

Firefighters extinguished the blazes at the plant, where three people died in a major fatal blast in November.

Furnace facts
Produces liquid iron
Operates at 1,500 degrees Celsius
Transferred to steelmaking unit
Production at Llanwern
Used for body panels, suspension systems, drinks cans, domestic equipment

The company later said the fires were in an isolated area of the plant, and no one was injured.

Corus said an industrial material could have caught fire after it was exposed to the atmosphere.

It came at exactly the same time Welsh steelworkers from Corus and Allied Steel and Wire met UK Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt to discuss fears of further job losses.

They are angered by US plans to slap massive tariffs on their steel exports.

Furnace rebuilding

The industry across south Wales was rocked by the explosion which ripped apart blast furnace number five on 8 November at the Port Talbot plant.

Inquiries are still ongoing in to the blast, which killed three workers and injured a dozen more.

Patricia Hewitt, UK Trade and Industry Sectretary
Steelworkers were meeting Patricia Hewitt when the fires broke out
It shook the close-knit community around Port Talbot.

Corus has pledged to rebuild the furnace at a cost of 75m to have production back on-line by January 2003.

The new blazes, which broke out at 1600 GMT, was "a relatively minor incident," the company's spokesperson said.

Corus did not have to implement its emergency procedure, which came into full effect at the last nightmare blaze.

Job fears

It was in an isolated area of the plant and was brought under control by the evening.

"In terms of perspective it is in an entirely different league to last year," the spokesman said.

"This fire is in the steel plant which is an area where we change iron into steel.

"This is taking place in a computer controlled environment which is a very long way from where the incident took place last year."

The delegation of worried workers met Ms Hewitt in London as fire crews were scrambled to Port Talbot.

Their Monday afternoon visit followed an announcement the European Union would impose retaliatory import duties on steel from the US.

It is a counter to US moves to introduce massive duties on steel imported to the country, which European and UK company bosses fear could force domestic steel producers to lay off thousands more workers.

See also:

15 Dec 01 | Wales
Corus furnace probe 'progress'
12 Nov 01 | Wales
Third Corus blast worker dies
09 Nov 01 | Wales
Steelworker killed in explosion
05 Mar 02 | Business
Q&A: World steel dispute
06 Mar 02 | Business
Steel spat could mean wider worries
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