The town of Northwood, Iowa, was evacuated Thursday after explosions and fire at a fertilizer plant sent at least four people to the hospital.
The fertilizer made there contains sulfuric acid, and residents were immediately asked to evacuate because of health concerns.
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“We're in the process of evacuating the town. We're trying to get everybody out of the town and moving them to the Kensett Community Center about six miles south of Northwood," Iowa State Patrolman Scott Bright told The Associated Press
. "The number one concern is to get everybody out of the town until the fire is put out."
"Some of the general symptoms that we are expecting include vomiting, nausea, and respiratory conditions," a hospital spokeswoman told the AP.
A fire started Thursday morning at the plant, about a mile east of Northwood, the Mason City Globe Gazette reported
. Residents said that police were knocking on doors by 9:30 a.m. telling people to evacuate.
“We didn’t know what was going on,” resident Dennis Lau told the Gazette. “They just told us to get out of town as fast as we could. I got my dogs and left."
School buses took residents to emergency centers in the county and other transportation was available for people who had no way to leave town. The Red Cross was on-site to help and officials were setting up temporary shelters.
Northwood resident Dennis Stoneking said he heard fertilizer plant employees were mixing chemicals at the time of the explosion, the Gazette reported.
Children in the area were out of school for a snow day. Many people were gathering at the nearby town of Kensett and there was concern about more bad weather on its way.
"We're trying to get everyone somewhere before the blizzard hits," Kensett Mayor Tom Dakin told the Gazette.
Officials were working with many of the evacuated residents to make sure they had all the medications they needed, the Gazette said. Some nursing home residents who were evacuated needed oxygen and had other medical issues to be addressed.
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