Toxic fumes from Australian recycling plant fire hospitalizes 4

MELBOURNE, July 14 (Xinhua) -- Four people were hospitalized and hundreds of homes evacuated on Friday due to toxic fumes from a recycling plant fire in Melbourne.

Fire crews said the blaze, which began on Thursday 19 km north of Melbourne's Central Business District (CBD) in Coolaroo, could take up to three days to contain.

Authorities issued an alert late Thursday night warning of "hazardous" air quality and more than 150 nearby homes were evacuated on Friday.

Four people have been hospitalized because of the fumes, including a four-year-old girl with four others being assessed by paramedics.

"Smoke and particulate will affect mostly people who are suffering from pre-existing respiratory problems," an ambulance spokesperson told media at the scene of the blaze.

"So, the young and very old are also at risk."

Brendan Angwin, Commander of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB), said the fire was likely to burn "for at least another couple of days" as it consumes thousands of tonnes of plastic, cardboard and paper at the plant.

"There are huge volumes of fuel in there burning. It is extremely difficult to gain access to the fire. We're really concerned for firefighter safety," Angwin told reporters.

The blaze caused ash to be spread across Melbourne on Thursday and Friday with the fumes being spread up to 30 km.

Ken Brown, acting deputy chief fire officer of the MFB, said analysis by a drone had revealed the fire was more complex than first thought due to rubbish being stacked 4 to 5 meters high.

"It's a very deep-seated fire," Brown said. "There's a very large pile that's burning with plastics and cardboard."

It is the third time the plant has caught on fire in 2017 prompting calls by local Member of Parliament MP Frank McGuire to call for an Environmental Protection Authority investigation.

"There is suspicion," McGuire said.

"Why are there so many fires at this site? And to actually look at what needs to be done on scrutiny and accountability, and then to ensure compliance."

[ Editor: meng ]


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