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Two dead in explosion at Quebec pharmaceutical plant

Officials have not yet confirmed the cause of the explosion in which 19 people were also injured.

AT LEAST TWO people were killed and 19 wounded when an acetone tank exploded in a pharmaceutical plant in the Canadian province of Quebec, officials said.

The explosion of the 15,000-litre tank occurred yesterday afternoon at Neptune Technologies in the town of Sherbrooke, some 150 kilometres east of Montreal.

Police spokesman Rene Dubreuil confirmed that rescuers had recovered two bodies, adding that they found a third person who was buried but not injured.

Nineteen people were hospitalised after the accident, police said.

A Sherbrooke police spokesman told AP that more than 100 people in the area and surrounding suburbs phones within a minute after the explosion.

“They hear the explosion, it was a big noise,” he said. “A lot of black smoke. You could see it everywhere in the city.”

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Within minutes of the explosion local television showed a plume of black smoke over the town, but authorities said there was no risk of contamination as winds had dispersed the gases that were released.

The Toronto Star reported that official suggested people might potentially experience headaches or nausea but little else because of the smoke.

The entire industrial area was evacuated, and a large contingent of firefighters was deployed to cool down nearby chemical tanks.

It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion.

- Additional reporting by AFP.

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