Explosion, fire wallop Camanchaca’s Talcahuano frozen fish plant

Published on
October 2, 2020

An explosion and subsequent fire erupted at fishing firm Camanchaca’s frozen food plant in the city of Talcahuano, in southern Chile’s Greater Concepción, on the morning of Thursday, 1 October.

The structural fire began in a cardboard container warehouse at about 11 a.m. local time and a total of 15 fire stations responded to the blaze, according to local press. No Camanchaca workers were reported injured as the plant, which processes horse mackerel, had not been operating since July, when the season ended.

The cause of the fire is being investigated, according to local emergency authorities. The column of smoke caused by the accident could be observed from different communities throughout Greater Concepción. Talcahuano Mayor Henry Campos called on the neighbors to move away from the place, in order to facilitate the work of the emergency teams. There are other industrial warehouses located close to the Camanchaca facilities, while the Las Higueras Hospital is located just a few blocks away.

Talcahuano residents were asked to stay inside their homes with windows closed and doors sealed. Health authorities were concerned about the smoke emanating from the fire, and particularly about toxic fumes coming from the release of ammonia, which is a standard procedure in emergencies of this type to avoid explosions and major catastrophes. Camanchaca’s frozen fish plant uses the chemical for cooling in its refrigeration system piping and has ammonia storage tanks at its facility.

In its Twitter feed, Chile’s environmental watchdog SMA said it is supervising emergency operations at Camanchaca’s Talcahuano Plant and confirmed that ammonia storage units had been closed and isolated when the fire began.

The fire “seriously compromises this productive unit of the company,” Camanchaca reportedly said, adding that it has insurance policies for the affected buildings, construction and contents, as well as against damages due to stoppage of activities, all of which have been activated. 

Photo courtesy of SMA/twitter

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