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8 February 2011, 16:43 | Updated: 18 February 2011, 16:55
An investigation's started after a fire completely destroyed the Sil-Die factory in Maldon.
Two phosphorus tanks exploded just before lunchtime on Tuesday at the foiling and embossing manufacturing plant in Fullbridge.
A spokesman for the fire service said: "First one tank exploded and then that made the second tank explode. There was a huge bang and the explosion created a bright white flash with pieces of phosphorus flying out everywhere."
Assistant Divisional Officer Nigel Dilley has praised the factory owner and first retained crews from Maldon for their professional and quick action which undoubtedly prevented a much more serious incident wihich could have had disasterous consequences.
"The factory itself has been totally destroyed - the roof has collapsed, some of the walls are still standing but there was nothing crews could do to save it.
"The early call from the owner and the information he gave regarding the chemicals and their potential reaction to first crews at the scene averted a much more serious incident. It meant that we knew straight away that we couldn't pour water onto the site so firefighters immediately began the work of protecting surrounding risks.
"We have a fire investigation officer involved in the incident although at this stage we are not treating it as deliberate."
Maldon Council set up emergency centres at Plantation Hall in Colchester Road and the Town Hall on Market Hill for people who couldn't get to their homes on Tuesday evening.