Eight workers injured after massive explosion at ink cartridge recycling factory

Eight workers were injured after a fire broke out following a massive explosion on an industrial estate this morning.

Three employees were airlifted to hospital with burns while five others were driven to hospital to be treated for burns and smoke inhalation after gas canisters exploded at the building near Lingfield in Surrey.

The blast - believed to have started in an ink cartridge recycling factory - shook nearby buildings and workers were evacuated from across the Newchapel business park.

A huge plume of black smoke was seen rising from the plant in Newchapel, Surrey

A huge plume of black smoke was seen rising from the plant in Newchapel, Surrey

Choking fumes: Fire crews wearing masks head into clouds of smoke at the industrial estate near Lingfield

Choking fumes: Fire crews wearing masks head into clouds of smoke at the industrial estate near Lingfield

Rescuers: Emergency services raced to save people trapped in the estate as debris rained from the sky

Rescuers: Emergency services raced to save people trapped in the estate as debris rained from the sky

One worker said he saw cartridges flying from the sky as employees gathered at the nearby Peacock Lodge pub and police guarded a cordon at the entrance of the industrial estate.

The worker, who did not want to be named, said: 'I heard a great big explosion and thought, what on earth was that?

'Then I looked out the window and there was all this debris coming down in the sky. It turned out to be stuff that looked like cartridges and bits were flying off the roof.'

He said he had seen one person with burns to his hands, and another with a cut ear.

Christine Brooks, 59, a waitress at the pub, said she had felt a 'huge vibration' and added: 'Everything just shook.'

Burning building: At least eight people were injured in the fire which followed a 'massive explosion'

Burning building: At least eight people were injured in the fire which followed a 'massive explosion'

Firefighters have been battling to put out the flames since 11.30 this morning

Firefighters have been battling to put out the flames since 11.30 this morning

Where the fire took place

An engineer working on a roof near the blast site said: 'There was a massive, massive bang, a large bang, with a little after-bang, but that was it.

'Just a few minutes after, that's when smoke started to appear.

'I'm actually working on a roof on part of our boundary and I could see the smoke starting to billow up.

He added: 'The amount of ambulances would indicate something quite serious.'

Three seriously injured workers were airlifted to major trauma centres in the region by helicopters from the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Ambulance Service.

One was taken to King's College Hospital in London and two to Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, where they are stable in A&E and waiting to be transferred to a nearby burns unit.

Five people have been admitted to East Surrey Hospital in Redhill with minor burns and smoke inhalation.

There are reports that there may be six more people missing.

Peter Burns, who works for Trichem, just two doors away from the suspected source of the explosion, described the panic when the blast happened.

'It was like a bomb had exploded,' he said. 'I ran straight out and there were bits floating in the air and flames coming from the building.

'There were a few guys staggering out from the building and away from the flames. There were people coming from all different units, gathering around the scene.

'The two blokes who were badly injured, I saw them and they were in a very bad way. They were out of the building being attended to and being given first aid (by other workers).

'Then everybody was evacuated to the field behind the estate.'

A woman working in an office near the business park described how the 'the whole building shook' with the initial blast.

'It sounded like a lorry had crashed straight into our building.

Enlarge   Burn victims: Five people being treated in nearby East Surrey Hospital and one person with severe burns had been airlifted to a unit elsewhere

Burn victims: Eight people were taken to hospital with at least one person airlifted to a specialist burns unit

Fear: The entire building was quickly consumed in fire and following the initial explosion there were a number of secondary blasts

Fear: The entire building was quickly consumed in fire and following the initial explosion there were a number of secondary blasts

'We are on a hill and after the first explosion there was billowing black smoke coming from the industrial estate.

'We have seen the air ambulance land twice. Men are walking around with bandages on their arms and we have been told that six people are unaccounted for,' she added.

Toner recycling plant, eReco, was believed to be at the centre of the explosions which rocked the Hobbs Industrial Estate.

The plant's clients include Canon, Ikon, Konica, Minolta, Ricoh and Sharp and electrical equipment is collected throughout Europe to be recycled.

At the height of the fire there were six ambulances taking the injured to hospital and 12 fire engines from Surrey and East and West Sussex fighting the inferno.

Crews are now using water and foam in their battle to control the flames.

The factory at the centre of the fire is believe to have been a toner cartridge recycling plant

The factory at the centre of the fire is believe to have been a toner cartridge recycling plant

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Packed with people: The explosion ripped through the ground floor factory at the industrial park

The explosion was reported to Surrey fire service at 11.23am and the first vehicles were on the scene by 11.30am.

One man, standing 100 yards from the scene, said: 'I am really worried. My friends are in there.

'Four units have gone up. It is complete carnage. I know that they have got one guy out but I don't know who it is or how he is.'

A joint statement from Surrey Police, Surrey Fire & Rescue Service and South East Coast Ambulance Service said: 'Anyone who is living nearby should close their windows. The police are asking that members of the public stay away from the area for the rest of the day.'



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