Cheshire flour mill explosion: Major incident declared after at least 'four people missing' in fire

Emergency services are on the scene

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The Independent Online

At least three men and woman woman remain unaccounted for after explosions and fires broke out at a wood mill in Cheshire.

Cheshire police have declared a major incident at the Wood Flour Mills site, in Bosley, south of Macclesfield. Fifteen fire engines and approximately 70 firefighters from Cheshire Fire and Emergency services attended the scene after they were called at 9.10am.

Paul Hancock, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service's chief fire officer, told a press conference on Friday that 20 people were believed to be in the factory at the time of the blast. Four people, three men and one woman, are still missing. Search and rescue teams must wait for crews to deal with a number of ongoing fires before they can venture inside the four-storey building.

They are "believed to still be in the building," Mr Hancock told reporters, adding that emergency services would continue to search for them.

Although the majority of the fire has been extinguished, "pockets" remain with the search and rescue operation complicated by acetylene gas cyclinders on the site. Emergency services estimate that crews will remain at the scene "for some time".

Multiple casualties have been reported, with North West Ambulance Service confirming to The Independent that at least four people have been taken to hospital.

A spokesperson for the West Midlands Ambulance Service said that one 29-year-old woman had been airlifted to Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham after she suffered "serious burns and blast injuries to her head, face, arms and chest." The woman was given pain relief and immobilised at the scene before a trauma doctor continued treatment en route to Birmingham.

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One person has been airlifted to Whiston Hospital in Manchester suffering from burns and two were taken by ambulance to the Royal Stoke University Hospital.

In a statement Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service said firefighters are dealing with a "dangerous situation as they cannot rule out further explosions."

"The incident involves the collapse of a four-storey building. There is a fully developed fire in several areas."

 

Four people are thought to be in the wood treatment plant, Cheshire police confirmed to The Independent.  However, the "vast majority" of staff at the factory are believed to be safe. Thirty-five walking wounded were assessed by emergency services at the scene and four were treated at the scene for breathing difficulties. A further four people were taking to hospital for treatment.

Police have established a family meeting point at Congleton Police Station.

Eyewitness Charli Alston, 18, described "massive plumes of flames," reaching into the sky and hearing a "huge bang" as she walked her dog nearby this morning.

"I was walking down my drive and there was just a huge bang. It sounded like a thunder cloud, we didn't know what it was because it was sunny then.

"We looked over and there were massive plumes of flames. Almost as high as the hill next to it," Ms Alton, a student, told ITV.

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Wood Flour Mills site, in Bosley, south of Macclesfield

Will Barratt, from Bosley, told The Independent that his home - roughly 300 metres from the scene of the fire - "shook" after the "multiple" explosions. Although Mr Barratt was not home at the time of the explosions, he describes how housesitter Bethan Ward was woken up by the sound of the explosions.

There are “multiple casualties,” according to the council's statement, and residents as far as Wildboarclough have been warned to keep their doors and windows shut to avoid inhaling the clouds of smoke from the on-going fires.

Fire officials were called to the scene at around 9.10am this morning, with fire engines from Congleton, Bollington, Winsford, Crewe and Macclesfield being drawn onto the rescue operation. There has also been aerial assistance from Macclesfield and Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service.

North West Ambulance Service has dispatched at least six ambulances, two rapid response vehicles, two doctors, four managers, Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) and air ambulance to the Bosley mill.

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