Motorway closed for five hours by chemical fire at industrial estate

Last updated at 14:20 02 July 2007

A chemical blaze at an industrial unit closed the M6 in both directions for more than five hours.

The alert was sparked by drums of chemicals exploding at the Veolia Cleanaway industrial unit in Ribbleton, Preston, at about 6am.

Cannisters of flammable liquid and flames shot hundreds of feet into the sky as more than 100 firefighters tackled the blaze.

At the height of the blaze a fire service spokeswoman said: "Approximately 62,000 litres of flammable waste liquid is burning."

A chemical support unit and two foam units were used to bring the fire under control just before 10am.

Both carriageways of the M6 between junctions 31 and 32 had been closed just after 6.30am as a safety precaution.

The northbound carriageway was reopened at 10.40am and the southbound section reopened shortly after 11am in a "phased" operation but motorists were still being advised to avoid the area.

A Highways Agency spokesman said: "Drivers are advised that congestion in the area is likely to persist for several hours with motorway traffic stuck behind the closures and local roads also extremely busy."

Two workers at the waste management firm were understood to be in the building on the Red Scar Industrial Estate at the time of the blasts but managed to escape without injury.

People living nearby were advised to stay indoors and keep windows closed.

And local schoolchildren had an unexpected day's holiday as several schools closed.

The waste management company, formerly known as Cleanaway UK, was bought by French firm Veolia Environment last year.

It is said to be one of the largest collectors of municipal, commercial, industrial and trade waste in England and Wales.

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now