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Dole plant explosion in Central Valley releases ammonia [Updated]

December 4, 2012 | 10:36 pm

This post has been updated. See the note below for details.

An explosion Tuesday evening at the Dole processing plant just outside of Atwater, Calif., released about 100 gallons of ammonia into the air, officials said.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection responded to the Central Valley food packaging plant at 6:40 pm. No Dole employees were exposed to or injured by the gas leak, said CalFire spokesman Daniel Berlant.

As a precaution, Merced County sheriff’s deputies evacuated several surrounding neighborhoods and set up an evacuation shelter. There are no reported injuries.

Local Hazmat officers, along with Dole’s Hazmat team, are also at the scene. The cause of the explosion is still under investigation.

[Updated, 10:06 p.m. Dec. 4: The ammonia leak has been stopped and many of the nearby residents that were evacuated have been allowed to return home, authorities said.

About 25 residents said they felt unsafe returning home, taking overnight vouchers for hotels provided by the Red Cross, said CalFire spokesman Daniel Berlant.

Authorities are still investigating the cause of the explosion.]

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-- Rosanna Xia

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