A major explosion at about 1:15 Eastern time ripped through the Neptune Technologies and Bioressources plant in Sherbooke, Quebec igniting a fire that continued to burn late Thursday. Five people were reportedly seriously injured and at least another 17 were taken to the hospital with lesser injuries.
The fire generated dense clouds of smoke which authorities feared could be toxic, according to the Associated Press. The toxicity concerns stemmed from the large quantities of acetone stored on the site. In addition to concerns about fumes, authorities were reportedly worried about soil contamination at the site.
More than 50 firefighters were on the scene, according to the Associated Press, and all of the plant’s 65 employees were accounted for.
Pascal Lepore, director of markerting at Neptune, said the company did not know the cause of the explosion, and was still gathering information.
“We are preoccupied with the safety of everybody,” Lepore told NutraIngredients-USA. Lepore was speaking from the company’s booth at the Supply Side West trade show in Las Vegas. “These are people we’ve worked with, like part of the family.”
The explosion occurred in the older part of Neptune’s plant, which has been in production for more than a decade.
“The plant is very heavily damaged,” Lepore said.
The company was in the process of expanding the plant’s capacity, and the newer part of the facility apparently was not affected by the explosion, Lepore said. The new addition was about a week away from going online, the company said.