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NEWBURYPORT, Mass. (AP) — A powerful explosion at a pharmaceutical plant in Massachusetts that has a checkered history left one worker missing, sent four people to the hospital and blew an industrial-sized vat into a parking lot, officials said Thursday.
The explosion happened around 1 a.m. at the Sequens/PCI Synthesis plant in Newburyport, officials said. Video footage showed most of the roof torn off a building, and the blast blew a vat from inside the building 30 feet into a parking lot, acting Fire Chief Stephen Bradbury III said in a news release.
It wasn’t immediately known what caused the explosion, and it wasn’t clear what role, if any, the vat played in the explosion.
“There is major structural damage to the building, preventing firefighters and technical rescue crews from entering the building to begin a search,” Bradbury said.
There is no danger to nearby homes, he said, but workers at the industrial park where the plant is located were asked to avoid the area.
The four workers were sent to the hospital as a precaution, were not injured, and were released. But one worker was not yet accounted for.
“All our attention is focused on the situation of our employees,” a company statement said.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is responding, an agency spokesperson said.
In 2020, authorities said a chemical reaction caused a series of explosions at the plant. That happened a year after OSHA found “serious” violations in the company’s management of highly hazardous chemicals, according to online agency records. There were no serious injuries.
A chemical fire in the building in June 2021 sent smoke pouring out of roof vents and prompted a response by a hazardous materials team, according to a fire department statement at the time. Sprinklers controlled the fire within about 20 minutes, but the city suspended the factory’s permits during the investigation.
The factory has also been cited by OSHA for violations of workplace safety rules and by the Environmental Protection Agency for alleged violations of hazardous waste laws.
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