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Firefighters damping down the remains of a huge chemical blaze at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire yesterday which could have caused a major leak of deadly chlorine gas. The emergency began with an escape of liquid ethyl chloride, used in petrol additives. This suddenly ignited, engulfing the Associated Octel plant, which employs more than 2,000 people, in intense and unpredictable flames. A main centre of the overnight blaze was under a large chemical tank, designed to withstand fire for a minimum of two hours. After that, the 200 firefighters would have been forced to withdraw for their own safety, leaving up to 30 tonnes of ethyl chloride to burn. Then chlorine stored on the site could have caught fire and released deadly gas. But with 20 minutes left a massive foam attack on the tank put out the fire. Five firefighters were treated in hospital. Neighbouring petro-chemical plants were evacuated.