Massive chemical explosion engulfs Melbourne factory
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Massive chemical explosion engulfs Melbourne factory

Thousands of people have been ordered to stay indoors as toxic smoke billows over Melbourne following a major factory fire.

Metal drums filled with chemicals were thrown into the air from deep within the fire, posing a threat to the 180 firefighters who were trying to bring the situation under control.

A large chemical explosion has occurred at the Derrimut factory, which then engulfs the building in an industrial park west of the central business district.

Victoria Police said there were no reports of any injuries and all factory workers were believed to have escaped safely.

Fire and Rescue Victoria said hazardous materials and unknown toxins were burning nearby.

“We don’t know what’s in that smoke. The smoke is toxic and can cause damage,” firefighter Michelle Cowling told reporters at the scene.

She added that the fire – the largest in Melbourne for several years – was not yet under control and was likely to continue burning for many days.

“We have embers, blazing fire, until we can get close enough to extinguish the fire, even with our fire suppression equipment that is on site and the hazmat specialists, we can’t get close enough to cool it down,” she said.

Emergency services were called to the fire at an address on Swann Drive at about 11.20am on Wednesday.

An emergency response order has been issued following the fire, which has affected thousands of residents and workers in Albion, Braybrook, Brooklyn, Derrimut, Laverton North, Sunshine, Sunshine West, Tottenham and Truganina.

“Winds are blowing toxic smoke east over Derrimut,” the warning reads.

“Anyone in the smoke-affected area should immediately seek shelter in an enclosed space.”

Massive chemical explosion engulfs Melbourne factory

Residents who are outside their homes have been ordered not to return, while those who remained in the area have been ordered to close all doors, windows and vents.

The factory was located near a gas pipeline, but emergency services did not issue any warning regarding the infrastructure.

Last year, one worker died and two others were injured in a fire that also followed an explosion at the Swann Drive plant.

Traffic was rerouted away from the area and the exit lanes of the Western Freeway near the plant and Swann Drive were closed until further notice.

Drivers in the area were advised to keep their windows open to avoid inhaling smoke and not slow down to see the fire.

Paramedics also arrived at the scene.