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Illinois chemical plant blast kills 4

Firefighters still battling blaze


(CNN) -- Firefighters continued on Saturday to battle a fire caused by a massive explosion that killed four workers at a chemical plant near Illiopolis, Illinois, according to Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson.

Two workers were injured critically in Friday night's explosion. Five others are being treated for various burn injuries at a hospital in the nearby city of Springfield, Williamson said.

"It was pretty devastating. The fire destroyed about a half to two-thirds of the plant," he told CNN.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich confirmed that the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the Illinois State Police and the Department of Transportation are on the scene working with the local responders and that Springfield is sharing equipment and personnel.

Sgt. Rath of the Springfield Fire Department said all the residents evacuated from their homes in a one-mile area around the site have been allowed to return.

There were about 16 employees working at the Formosa Plastics plant near Illiopolis -- about 20 miles east of Illinois' capital, Springfield -- when the initial blast happened around 10:40 p.m. (11:40 p.m. ET). Two or three subsequent explosions followed.

"I heard reports that the blast was seen or heard as far as 20 miles away," the sheriff said.

A stretch of Interstate 72 between Springfield and Decatur has been re-opened after it was shut down due to the fire.

The fire has been contained but is still not fully under control, Williamson said.

Firefighters are trying to keep vats of chemicals cool, so the fire doesn't re-ignite. Firefighters from neighboring communities have descended upon the rural area to help contain the blaze. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are also on the scene to help determine what caused the explosion.

According to the Formosa Plastics Corp. Web site, its Illiopolis plant manufactures polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resins.

"For the second time this week in the wake of tragedy, we have witnessed the state and local communities swing into action and quickly pool resources to provide aid and assistance," said Blagojevich.

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