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Explosions and fire at Shell chemical facility near Rotterdam

Firefighters have put out a fire that had burned all night at a Royal Dutch Shell chemical plant near Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The cause of the explosions and fire is not yet known.

Local media in the Netherlands reported that people across a wide area heard blasts and could see flames soaring into the night sky from the 320-hectare (790-acre) chemical plant operated by oil giant Royal Dutch Shell in the town of Moerdijk near the port city of Rotterdam.

Shell spokesman Thijs van Velzen said that two people suffered minor injuries: "All the people that were present are safe," he said. The cause of the explosion was not immediately clear.

Residents told local radio and television that they heard "two powerful bangs" which rocked the area around 10:45 pm (2045 UTC) and that the ground "shook like in an earthquake." All road and river traffic near the site was suspended.

Dutch public television showed pictures of the flames and large plumes of smoke, which could be seen from Rotterdam, about 30 kilometres (18 miles) away.

The plant manufactures chemicals from petroleum used in products ranging from car components to insulation materials, paints and antifreeze.

The incident was close to the scene of another major fire three years ago at a chemical storage facility.

jm/msh (AP, Reuters, AFP)