41 hurt in explosion; 3 believed to be missing

GARNER, NC - 41 workers were injured and three are believed missing following a massive explosion at a plant near Raleigh late Tuesday morning.

The explosion was inside a 50,000 square feet building located south of Raleigh where 300 people were working at the time.

Several portions of the roof collapsed during an apparent explosion and one wall collapsed on more than a dozen vehicles parked near the building.

Fire officials think the explosion, which left a toxic cloud, may have been triggered by an ammonia leak.

41 people were taken to hospitals in the Raleigh-metro area and four of them suffered critical injuries. Authorities were searching for three others.

WRAL reported on its web site that about 300 workers were in the plant at the time of the 11:30 a.m. incident. Many suffered from exposure to toxic fumes from ammonia leaks, and some also suffered severe burns, authorities said.

Emergency crews kept people away because of concerns about ammonia and an official said there was a toxic cloud around the facility.

The plant is owned by ConAgra, employs several hundred people and makes Slim Jim meat products.

Several people reported hearing an explosion before the building partially collapsed.

WRAL reported that more than 240 workers who weren't seriously injured were taken by bus to the Garner Senior Center where officials checked them over for any minor injuries and where anxious family members waited.

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