Fire’s smoke forced major evacuation

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Smoke from a fire at a recycling plant outside Stavanger forced the evacuation Tuesday morning of thousands of people, including employees at the headquarters for Norway’s state oil company Statoil. Dozens of firefighters battled the blaze, which broke out just after midnight.

The evacuation of people from buildings in Forus, south of Stavanger, was ordered because thick smoke from the blaze was blanketing the area and spreading. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that Statoil sent around 1,700 workers home because of the smoke.

“In large quantities, it can be poisonous,” Olav Nybø, chief of the fire brigade for southern Rogaland County told NRK. “If you’re only driving through the area, however, there’s not much danger.” He advised that no one should remain in buildings where smoke has seeped in. “A lot of plastic has burned and then poisonous gas can develop,” Nybø said.

The fire at the Westco recycling plant involved mostly paper, and some officials said they didn’t expect severe hazards, but the smoke was drifting as far as Randaberg and Rennesøy, and towards the city of Stavanger itself. Households and businesses were advised to keep all windows closed.

Two persons who police said were in a neighboring building to the plant managed to flee and no injuries were reported. As many as 55 firefighters from Sandnes, Stavanger, Forus and Klepp battled the blaze through the night and reported that it was under control around 6am. The cause of the fire was unclear.

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