Blaze at French chemical factory extinguished – but pungent smell hangs over town

Blaze at French chemical factory extinguished - but pungent smell hangs over town
Residents in Rouen have been wearing masks against the smell and pollution from the blaze. Photo: AFP
Firefighters have extinguished a huge blaze that broke out at a chemical factory in northern France and forced authorities to close schools and warn of pollution risks for the Seine river, local authorities said on Friday.

But although the flames are now out, there now hangs over Rouen what authorities describe as an “unpleasant odour”.

The préfecture of Seine-Maritime said on Friday morning: “Following the fire that broke out within the Lubrizol factory, the firefighting operation generated a characteristic smell. During this phenomenon, the emergency services received a significant number of calls.

READ ALSO French chemical factory explosion: What you need to know

The fire broke out in the early hours of Thursday morning. Photo: AFP/Jocelyn Moras

“It is important not to overload the emergency services with this odour problem. However, for people who are frail and who may need it, they must naturally consult a doctor.
“Despite an unpleasant odour, the risk to the population remains low.”
The fire erupted in the early hours of Thursday at a storage facility near the city of Rouen owned by Lubrizol, a manufacturer of industrial lubricants and fuel additives which is owned by the billionaire American investor Warren Buffett.
The site is classified as Seveso, meaning it is high risk because of the toxic nature of the chemicals that it produces.

No injuries were reported in the blaze, which sent acrid black smoke billowing over some 22 kilometres.

Emergency services have received dozens of calls from people concerned about the smell. Photo: AFP

A total of 240 firefighters battled the flames for over 24 hours before bringing it under control.

“The fire is out… we are keeping manpower at the site to continue the cooling of all drums,” Chris Chislard, a spokesman for the regional fire
service, said.

For the people of Rouen, now the clean-up operation begins as large parts of the town are blanketed in soot and ash.

Local authorities have advised people to

– avoid skin contact with soot
– clean premises, windows, outdoor furniture and the surroundings (courtyards, gardens) only with water
– do not use a high-pressure cleaner that can suspend particles
– do not perform dry sweeping
– do not use a vacuum cleaner
– when cleaning, protect the skin by wearing household gloves
– do not consume plants soiled by soot and wash your hands in case of contact

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  1. So every crop within a 20k radius is worthless and needs to be destroyed lest it enter the food chain?
    Or will acid rain be enough to clean it?

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