Kansas City: Chemical Plant Explosion

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Several explosions engulfed a chemical plant in flames Wednesday in an industrial section of Kansas City, forcing a broad evacuation as a towering cloud of black smoke rose over the skyline.

There were no immediate reports of injuries at the Chemcentral Corp. plant, but the cloud appeared to be dropping a sticky substance as it moved southwest across the metropolitan area.

Fire Chief Richard Dyer said officials were evacuating a one-square-mile area around the plant and were going door-to-door through several blocks to get people out.

The Kansas City school district sent students from six elementary schools in the area to a high school to keep them as far from the explosions as possible, a district spokeswoman said.

The fire began after several 55-gallon drums containing chemicals exploded, touching off more explosions and fires, including blasts from three 30,000-gallon tankers, Fire Marshal Floyd Peoples said.

Dan Brennan, an attorney for Bedford Park, Ill.-based Chemcentral, said it was not immediately clear what caused the explosions at the plant, which has 15 to 20 workers.

"To the best of my knowledge there have been no injuries. Everyone was evacuated safely," Brennan said in a telephone interview. He said Chemcentral distributes various chemicals and solvents.

Emergency responders from the Environmental Protection Agency were at the scene, in the city's East Bottoms section.