Emergency alert lifted following explosion that triggered toxic cloud

The elderly, children and people with respiratory problems told to remain indoors

A toxic orange cloud emerges from a chemical plant following an explosion near Barcelona.
A toxic orange cloud emerges from a chemical plant following an explosion near Barcelona.IVAN VALLS (EFE)

Authorities in Catalonia on Thursday lifted a warning issued earlier for residents in four towns near Barcelona to remain indoors following an explosion at a chemical plant that released a bright orange cloud in the vicinity.

Civil protection officials said that it was safe for the residents of Òdena, Igualada, Santa Margarida de Montbui and Vilanova del Camí to venture outdoors but maintained an emergency plan for an area surrounding the Simar chemical company in Igualada, where the explosion took place.

Emergency medical teams treated eight people who were affected by the toxic particles, including three that had to be hospitalized.

Civil protection authorities have also reopened portions of the A-2 highway that were closed off earlier in the day. Access to the Les Comes industrial park, where the Simar plant is located, is still restricted.

Two women cover their mouths on a street in Igualada.
Two women cover their mouths on a street in Igualada.ALBERT GARCIA

Igualada Mayor Marc Castells has asked the public to remain calm and recommended that the elderly, young children, pregnant women and those suffering from respiratory problems remain indoors. Regional government officials have ordered two dozen daycare centers not to release any of the 600 children on their premises until further orders.

Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the explosion. Employees at the Simar plant were carrying out their normal duties when two chemical compounds came in contact with each other, triggering the explosion.

Two workers required medical assistance after inhaling the substance.

“Unfortunately there is not too much wind in the area and that will make the toxic cloud dissipate more slowly,” said the Catalan commissioner for interior affairs, Ramon Espadaler.

The explosion also forced the closing of the R6 Llobregat-Anoia rail line between Pobla de Claramunt and Igualada.

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