Man hurt in factory explosion drama

A MASSIVE emergency operation was launched last night after an explosion tore through a plastics factory - with a 55-year-old man suffering serious burns in the blast.

A MASSIVE emergency operation was launched last night after an explosion tore through a plastics factory - with a 55-year-old man suffering serious burns in the blast.

More than 40 firefighters from Suffolk and Essex, ambulance crews, the air ambulance and police officers were sent to Wardle Storeys Plc, in Factory Lane, Brantham.

Smoke billowed from the single-storey building and a 200m exclusion zone was immediately set up as there was a perceived risk of further explosions, an Essex ambulance spokesman said.

The fire service also had to suspend all trains on the mainline between Ipswich and Manningtree from 4.30pm - causing chaos on the railways into the evening.

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The Essex ambulance helicopter airlifted the 55-year-old man, who sustained burns to his upper body, to the region's specialist burns unit at Broomfield Hospital, near Chelmsford, for treatment.

A spokesman for Essex ambulance service said at first it was not clear whether any other people had been caught up in the blast, which happened at around 3.40pm. It was later confirmed that there was only one casualty.

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He said the helicopter, which usually only flies during the day because of flight restrictions, had to land in nearby playing fields, with lights used to assist the landing in the dark.

As it could not land very close to the incident, an East Anglian ambulance took the casualty from the scene to the helicopter.

Two fire engines from Manningtree and Holbrook were initially sent to the factory, Suffolk fire service confirmed.

But once the scale of the blaze was confirmed another four pumps from Ipswich, one from Felixstowe and one from Woodbridge were dispatched.

A forward control vehicle from Felixstowe, operation support units from Ipswich and Haverhill and the hydraulic platform from Colchester were also sent.

Firefighters used three ground monitors, an aerial monitor used from the hydraulic platform, four jets and six breathing apparatuses to tackle the fire. By 7pm they had surrounded the fire and were tackling hotspots.

Suffolk fire service said they received good information about chemicals on the site when they arrived, which had helped the operation.

The factory makes and provides specialist plastics for a wide range of industries. It is thought to be the largest employer in the village, although it suffered through a rocky patch in 2001 when bosses had to ask workers to volunteer for redundancy - the second time such a call was made in two years.

Assistant divisional officer for Suffolk fire service David Atkinson told the EADT at the scene of the fire: “There are eight pumps from Suffolk and Essex in attendance and the aerial platform appliance from Essex.

“There are 40 to 50 firefighters. We have a reasonable fire in there but all I can say is that it is going to be investigated. The company will have its own investigation as well.

“They have had to stop all the trains running on the mainline as a safety precaution.”

People stuck at Manningtree station spoke of their frustration.

One woman, who was travelling from London to Stowmarket on the 4pm service, told the EADT: “We have been waiting here an hour. Buses haven't turned up. We had to ring someone to come and collect us but they got stuck in the traffic.

“We were told there was an explosion at a factory. There are just thousands of people.”

Paul Hale, from Ipswich, said: “Obviously it was unexpected event that One couldn't have planned for. “It's complete chaos around here. We have been waiting around in the cold for a bus to pick us up.”

Peter Meades, spokesman for East Anglian train operator One, said the fire brigade shut the line both ways between Ipswich and Manningtree at 4.30pm, and replacement services were put on.

The closure lasted until around 6.15pm but it had a knock-on effect into the evening with trains cancelled and delays.

n More traffic problems were caused around Brantham after a toddler was involved in a collision with a van.

The accident happened on the A137, Brantham Hill, at around 5.50pm last night. The toddler was taken to Ipswich Hospital by ambulance, suffering with a broken leg.

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