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Massive fire at Melbourne recycling plant prompts evacuation

Toxic smoke from a huge fire at a recycling plant in Melbourne has hospitalized at least two people, emergency services said. Scores of nearby homes have been evacuated as firefighters continue to battle the blaze.

Two men were hospitalized with respiratory-related illnesses on Friday morning caused by a large fire at a recycling plant in the Australian city of Melbourne, officials said.

Ambulance Victoria said the two men were in a stable condition and that eight other people were being treated for breathing difficulties.

The massive amounts of toxic smoke forced 100 nearby homes to be evacuated. Over 40 people spent the night at a neighborhood swimming pool after the country's Environment Protection Authority noted air quality deterioration, reported Australian broadcaster ABC.

Over 135 firefighters were deployed to control the blaze at the Coolaroo SKM Recycling factory as the fire entered its second day.

The blaze broke out in the morning on Thursday, scattering ash onto houses over 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) away and blanketing the north and west of the city, ABC reported.

By Friday, the fire had grown to the "size of a sports field" and "as high as a factory," Emergency Services Minister James Merlino told reporters.

He said that it was "highly likely" that further evacuations will be necessary.

Although over 35 fire trucks were on the scene, the inferno could take three days to put out, Metropolitan Fire Brigade Commander Darren Conlin told reporters.

Strong winds have hindered emergency workers' attempts to quell the blaze by pushing the fire's toxic fumes into the suburbs, Conlin added.

It's the fourth time the recycling plant has caught fire in recent months, according to local media. Earlier fires this year broke out already in February and June.

The plant provides services for a dozen local councils and recycles paper, metal, glass and plastic.

rs/msh  (dpa)

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