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Residents living near Orica fear big blast

FIVE trucks a week depart Orica's Yarwun factory loaded with ammonium nitrate, headed for all parts of the country.

One of those trucks overturned on the Mitchell Hwy near Charleville on Friday, headed for South Australia.

Diesel spilling from the fuel tank came into contact with the load, creating a massive explosion which seriously injured eight and obliterated the highway and truck.

An attending fire truck was also destroyed.

In light of the explosion, Gladstone residents have expressed concerns about living in the same town as an ammonium nitrate plant.

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"It scares me," said May Knotwell. "If a truck can cause that much damage, what would happen if the plant exploded? I don't want to even think about it."

An Orica spokesperson yesterday maintained procedures across all Orica facilities were robust and compliant with federal and state safety regulations.

Included in a publicly accessed Orica Yarwun Emergency Response Plan, advice is offered to Gladstone locals if they detect a strong chemical smell or odour.

The recommended plan of action is to go inside, shut doors and windows, turn off air-conditioners and exhaust fans and await advice from emergency services via the media.

It was also confirmed an internal Orica crew was currently at the scene of the explosion, trying to establish the sequence of events which caused the combustion.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Inspector Warren Buckley assesses the damage to the Charleville branch's alpha vehicle.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Inspector Warren Buckley assesses the damage to the Charleville branch's alpha vehicle. Ali Kuchel

"An Orica team is working with emergency services and regulators to understand both the cause of the accident and its aftermath and also provide advice regarding the management of the site and clean up activities," he said.

"The thoughts of all Orica employees in Australia are with the driver of the contractor's vehicle and emergency service workers who responded to the accident and who are now being treated for injuries."

The plant manufactures 530,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate annually at Yarwun.

Kalari, the transport company whose truck was involved in the explosion, declined to comment on the highway incident..

Focus has now been aligned to the remains of the explosion, heard by residents 30km away.

A spokesperson for the Department of Natural Resources and Mines confirmed a joint multi-agency group was in the midst of investigations.

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