2 killed in explosion, fire at Omaha plant

OMAHA, Neb. — At least two people were killed and more than a dozen injured here Monday after part of a plant that manufactures food supplements for animals collapsed, burst into flames and set off a struggle for survival for those trying to escape the crushing debris.

Local and federal authorities said they were investigating the cause of the accident, which occurred shortly after 10 a.m. at a factory owned by International Nutrition, an Omaha-based company. Workers inside and at nearby businesses said they heard an explosion, which quickly gave way to smoke and fire.

"It sounded like a giant barn collapse," said Chad Reimer, a mechanic at an equipment company across the street. "I turned around and saw a giant black mushroom cloud like a bomb."

Dozens of emergency responders rushed to the scene, but were hampered by the unstable structure and high winds that made the fire difficult to control. Ten people were taken to local hospitals, four of them in critical condition, according to Bernard Kanger Jr., Omaha's interim fire chief. He said seven others did not want treatment.

Fire officials said one body was removed from the second-floor rubble Monday afternoon, but they could not retrieve another body because of extreme winds and brutal cold. Crews will need to clear the rest of the building to make sure there are no other victims, Kanger said.

Responders rescued five people, and had to break through concrete and cut through steel to get to one of them, he said.

Kanger said 38 people had been inside the plant when the accident occurred. Other than the two fatalities, everyone known to have been in the building was accounted for, said Lt. Darci Tierney, an Omaha police spokeswoman.

2 killed in explosion, fire at Omaha plant 01/20/14 [Last modified: Monday, January 20, 2014 11:30pm]

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