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1 Dead, Several Hurt in Mississippi Plant Explosion

One person was killed and several others injured in an explosion Wednesday at a copper tubing plant in northeast Mississippi, emergency officials said.

The Itawamba County Emergency Management Agency confirmed to The Associated Press that there was a blast at Mueller Industries Inc. in Fulton but did not immediately have other details. The blast occurred around 4 p.m. at Mueller Copper Tube.

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Jeff Rent said local officials confirmed the death and injuries, and Itawamba County Sheriff Chris Dickinson told WTVA-TV in nearby Tupelo that a medical helicopter and ambulances were sent.

An official with Mueller Industries said the company is still assessing the damage. Authorities were unsure how the explosion happened and did not identify any of the victims.

Rhonda Thomas, who lives in a subdivision near the plant, told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo that she heard what sounded "like dynamite exploding." When she and her husband, David, ran outside to see what had happened, "the sky was covered with black smoke," she said.

The plant was evacuated after the blast. The fire was extinguished by 5 p.m. and the Tupelo newspaper said at least two people were injured.

The Itawamba County Sheriff's Department and the Greater Fulton Fire Department did not immediately provide any other details to The Associated Press late Wednesday.

Officials said a Hazmat team decontaminated people who had chemicals on them.

Memphis, Tenn.-based Mueller Industries makes copper tube and fittings, among other products. The company also has plants in Arkansas, Tennessee, California, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Mueller is also located in Canada, Mexico, and Great Britain.

The company has four plants — Mueller Copper Tube, Mueller Casting, Mueller Copper Fittings and Mueller Custom Pack — on the same road in Fulton. Mueller Copper Tube is the oldest and largest of four plants in the complex.

The company's Fulton operation opened in 1969 and employs 300 to 400 employees.