- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2003

CORBIN, Ky., Feb. 20 (UPI) — An explosion and fire rocked a fiberglass and insulation factory Thursday, injuring more than 30 workers, forcing hundreds to evacuate the area and closed several miles of interstate highway in southeastern Kentucky, sheriff's deputies said.

Two workers were still unaccounted for nearly five hours after the blast at CTA Certified Acoustics near Corbin, 90 miles south of Lexington, Ky.,

About 150 workers were inside the plant, which makes acoustical and thermal insulation products for the automotive industry, at the time of the explosion. The 302,000-square-foot plant employs 561 people.

No cause for the blast was immediately determined.

Hundreds of residents within half a mile of the plant were evacuated as the fire spewed a low-lying black cloud. Officials determined no toxic chemicals were released in the thick smoke.

A shelter was set up for evacuated residents at the Corbin Civic Center.

WLEX-TV, Lexington, reported 11 workers were in critical condition at Baptist Regional Medical Center.

"Injuries are consisting of massive burns with complication from smoke inhalation," a hospital statement said

At least four workers were transported to the burn unit at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington. Others were sent to burn units at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., and to Louisville and nearby London, Ky.

A spokeswoman for the Laurel County Sheriff's Department said a 20-mile stretch of Interstate 75, the main north-south highway, reopened to traffic around noon between exits 23 and 38.

"The explosion occurred about 7:30 a.m. and two workers are still unaccounted for," said Corbin police spokeswoman Janet Hagan. "Hundreds of people are being evacuated. The fire is still burning."

Firefighters and paramedics from Laurel, Knox and Whitley counties transported at least 22 people to hospitals, many with burns.

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