Chemical emergency alert activated in northeastern Spain after explosion

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Smoke rise following a big explosion at an industrial hub near the port city of Tarragona, Spain.

The explosion happened at 6.40pm local time, Efe news agency reports.

Although firefighters said the fire caused by the explosion was under control, the blaze is expected to continue until the early hours of tomorrow morning.

Authorities are investigating the cause of what they described as a "chemical accident" on the premises of chemical maker Iqoxe.

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The fire was now contained, the spokesman said, adding that two people suffered severe burns, another victim sustained less severe burns and three had light injuries.

A spokesman for IQOXE, owned by Spain's CL Grupo Industrial, said the company had opened an internal investigation into the explosion. It said firefighters were inspecting the complexs building structures as well, trying to fully extinguish the fire in one ethylene oxide tank.

The cause of the blast last night at the IQOXE facility - which specialises in the production of ethylene oxide, glycol and propylene oxide - is not immediately known.

Tuesday's explosion comes just over a month after a December 11 blaze at a solvent and industrial residues recycling plant in the northeastern town of Montornes del Valles. A piece flying metal from the factory 3km away struck a man's apartment, killing him.

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Video footage showed high flames and columns of smoke around the complex.

A building collapsed after Tuesday's incident in La Canonja municipality. I looked out to the window and I saw the flames.

The blast at a chemical plant near Tarragona, 115 kilometres southwest of Barcelona, has left two people dead and eight injured. "I though I was going to have a heart attack".

Since 2015, the city has housed a 2,965-acre "chemical hub", ChemMed, that was described as the largest of its kind in southern Europe.

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