Residents are warned to stay indoors and not to touch any debris amid a feared asbestos risk after an explosion at a derelict factory in Belper.
Thick black plumes of smoke were billowing over the Derbyshire town after a reported explosion at around 3.30pm this afternoon.
The explosion was understood to have occurred at the former site of the chocolate company Thortons.
There are no reported injuries. However residents have been advised to stay indoors and not pick up any debris amid fears that the site could have contained asbestos. Health and safety inspectors are examining the site.
The incident also led to a county cricket match between Derbyshire and Lancashire being abandoned.
2nd XI UPDATE: Play has been abandoned due to a fire at a neighbouring factory. Derbyshire close on 234-6 on Day 3 twitter.com/derbyshireccc/â?¦
— Derbyshire CCC (@derbyshireccc) May 10, 2013
Derbyshire county cricket club chairman Chris Grant told the Derby Telegraph: “I was watching the game when I spotted the fire and it became clear the building had exploded.
“I ensured all of the players and the umpires got off the pitch straight away and got back inside. All of a sudden people started to move their cars very quickly, in case it started to get worse.”
The explosion is thought to have been triggered by some old gas canisters that exploded in the derelict factory and set the building alight.
A helicopter, paramedics and two fire engines arrived at the scene and have since dispersed.
Eyewitness Gary Parsons told Channel 4 News that he saw flames billowing as high as the building. “We could see flames as high as the building and thought the worst when paramedics appeared to be the first people at the scene.
“A helicopter flew over the area instructing people to stay indoors. Thankfully it has started to rain now which has helped to extinguish a lot of the fire.”
People on the school run could neither see where they were going nor breathe.”
A spokesperson for East Midlands Ambulance Service said a paramedic was passing the scene in a fast response car at the time and stopped to attend.
The ambulance service added that no-one had been taken to hospital.