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Factory blast 'could have seriously hurt passers-by.

Byline: By Emma Pinch

Two factory workers were taken to hospital yesterday after an explosion at a West Midlands factory.

Fire chiefs said it was a miracle no one was killed in the blast, which took place in one of two units operated by metal perforators Ash and Lacy, in Alma Street, Smethwick.

The explosion happened at about 7.30am and the blast was so great that windows along an 80-yard wall were blown out, machinery toppled over and cast-iron drain covers were lifted out of the factory floor. A man in his early 60s and a workmate in his early 20s, were taken to City Hospital, Birmingham, with flash burns to their hands and face. One of them was released by midday, while the other remained in hospital for further treatment.

The condition of the remaining man is not thought to be life threatening.

Station Officer Tony Oakes, of Smethwick fire station, said the blast had sent shards of glass flying into another building 100ft away.

'If anyone had been walking past the factory they could have been sliced to ribbons.

'The place looked like a bomb had hit it and it is very fortunate no one was more seriously injured.'

The explosion is believed to have been caused at the metal-fabrication factory by a leaking cylinder of liquid petroleum gas, which was used to power a forklift truck. The LPG is thought to have been leaking for several hours because workers had said they had been smelling it well before the blast happened, Mr Oakes said. 'There was obviously a build-up of this gas in the pits of the factory floor and the blast happened when the ignition key was turned on the forklift truck. It was a huge explosion,' he added.

The area around the factory was cordoned off and more than 20 workers were evacuated while inspectors from the HSE began an investigation.

Mike Nottingham, technical manager at Ash and Lacy, said about a third of the unit would be out of action while a clean-up operation was carried out and necessary repairs made. 'All of the glass from the windows needs to be cleared up and we may have machinery damage,' he added. 'That is still being assessed and we are moving materials outside while the area is out of use.

'But as of 11am we were open for business and it is carrying on as usual
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 25, 2005
Words:402
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