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Chemical plant explosion forces evacuations

MIAMISBURG, Ohio — About 2,000 people who live near a chemical plant rocked by an explosion remained away from their homes early Monday while fire officials tried to determine if it was safe to end the evacuation.

The blast occurred Sunday morning while firefighters were working with six employees at the Isotec plant to contain a nitric oxide leak, Miami Township fire Chief David Fulmer said. No one else was in the plant at the time.

People living within a mile of the plant near this Dayton suburb were evacuated overnight because firefighters feared a possible second explosion, Fulmer said. Other chemicals were stored in the area where the explosion happened, including a large tank of carbon monoxide, he said.

Investigators had not determined the cause of the leak or the explosion. However, Miami Township police spokesman John DiPietro said preliminary data indicated a failure in a storage tank might have allowed the volatile nitric oxide gas to heat up and explode.

One worker was treated for a cut on the head.

The plant is owned by Simga-Aldrich Corp., a St. Louis-based supplier of chemicals to research laboratories. Messages left at the plant and at company headquarters were not returned.