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Meeting saves workers from factory blast

Workers at a rubber factory hit by an explosion had a lucky escape as they were at a meeting in another part of the building, the fire service said today.

One person suffered minor injuries in the blast which tore off huge metal panels and shattered the windows of nearby offices.

But there could have been many more casualties if staff had been at the factory end of the building when the explosion took place.

Emergency crews were called to the Slough Industrial Estate in Berkshire, made famous as the set of the Ricky Gervais TV comedy series The Office, shortly after 10am.

The "significant blast" at the Duco International Ltd building was heard miles away, including at the local fire station.

Workers at the building managed to escape while six fire crews raced to the scene to deal with the resulting blaze.

Nearby roads were closed off and staff from neighbouring offices were evacuated.

A spokesman for Thames Valley Police said one person suffered minor injuries, believed to have been caused by flying glass or debris.

Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman Nicole Targett said: "It was quite an explosion. Metal panels were blown out across the road into the car park opposite and the force smashed windows of other premises nearby.

"All the people inside were at the other end of the building at a meeting when the explosion went off.

"If they had been at the factory end then it could have been a lot more serious and I am sure there would have been casualties.

"The sound of the explosion was heard for miles around. The factory processes rubber for industrial uses and there are chemicals on site but we don't know yet whether they were involved in the explosion."

A joint investigation into the cause of the blast is being carried by the fire service and police but there not thought to be any suspicious circumstances.

The Health and Safety Executive will also be investigating.

Two fire crews remained at the scene this afternoon damping down the damaged building.