Large chemical fire in France closes schools, threatens Seine

French authorities closed multiple schools Thursday after a large chemical fire started at a U.S.-owned plant in Rouen.

The fire began early Thursday morning and threatened to send contaminants into the nearby Seine river. Photo by Alexandre Bioret

Officials said the fire began early Thursday at the Lubrizol storage facility, which is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. The plant makes industrial lubricants and fuel additives.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said there was no need for panic and the public wasn’t in danger.

“Let’s not panic about this situation, but we need to be very careful,” he told RTL radio. “There is nothing to make us believe there is a risk from the smoke.”

Officials in 13 cities near the fire closed schools and nurseries while authorities cautioned residents to limit their movements. Those in nearby complained of a residue left on their vehicles and streets. Rouen posted videos of the residue online.

Regional official Pierre-Andre Durant said contaminants could flow into the Seine river, which winds through Paris into the English Channel.

“I didn’t hear anything but when I looked out the window upstairs I saw the huge cloud of dark black smoke,” resident Amanda Masterson told CNN. “Quite shocking, really. I am concerned about the effects on my health and the environment.”

ByClyde Hughes