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15 injured in U.S. Steel plant explosion

07-15-2010 10:42 BJT

WASHINGTON, July 14 (Xinhua) -- At least 15 people were injured in an explosion on Wednesday in a U.S. Steel coke plant in Clairton, Pennsylvania.

The explosion occurred at the Clairton Coke Works plant, believed to be the biggest of its kind in the country with 12 batteries.

U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration official Robert Szymanski said "there was a fire and explosion in number 2 B battery and apparently there was flammable gas that ignited and exploded."

Ambulances and a medical helicopter have responded after the explosion was reported on Wednesday morning. The injured were taken to burn unit at West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh. Others went to UPMC McKeesport, which is the closest hospital. Some injuries are considered to be "severe," according to Szymanski.

Manager of the Allegheny County Air Quality Program Jim Thompson said initial reports indicate the explosion may have been caused by a gas explosion at the B battery, the largest coke- making battery at the complex with 75 ovens. All operations at the battery have been shut down.

"A coke oven battery uses coke oven gas to heat itself, and if there's a leak there's always a potential for an explosion but right now that's pure speculation. I have no confirmation on that, " Thompson was quoted as saying by some local media.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has dispatched four investigators to the plant to look into the incident.

The plant is located about 30 kilometers south of Pittsburgh along the Monongahela River. It is the largest coke manufacturing facility in the Unites States and produces about 4.7 million tons of coke per year.

Editor:Jin Lin |Source: Xinhua

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