New York cosmetic factory explosions leave more than 30 injured, including firefighters

Two explosions and a fire at an upstate New York cosmetic factory on Monday injured up to 35 people, including seven firefighters, authorities said.

A police commander was heading to work around 10:30 a.m. when he heard an explosion at the Verla International cosmetics factory in New Windsor, News 12 Hudson Valley reported. New Windsor town Supervisor George Green told The Associated Press firefighters were caught in the building when a second explosion occurred.

Officials issued a shelter in place, but was lifted shortly after officials believed the air was safe to breathe. Officials added later they were monitoring the water to prevent contamination. 

At least 26 employees and seven firefighters were injured, officials said. One employee remains unaccounted for.

One firefighter was taken to the hospital with severe burns to his face, officials said. Other people suffered broken bones, muscle tears and minor burns.

A plume of black smoke was seen billowing out of the factory as firefighters battled the blaze. Lynne Morra, who works down the street at Durants Party Rentals, told The Journal News she saw a slew of emergency vehicles rushing to the scene.

"Somebody came in and said there's a huge explosion down the street," Morra said. "I went outside, the smoke seemed to die down, then all of a sudden it started up again. It was huge."

Sasha Cheparskyy also told The Journal News the air was filled with “burnt electrical wire” smell.

Green said fire crews from across Orange County and from neighboring counties responded, along with hazardous materials teams.

It’s unclear what caused the explosion.

Verla International was cited for nine occupational safety violations earlier this year, according to records on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) website. One was related to problems with the handling of flammable and combustible liquids.

OSHA also cited inadequacies relating to respirator protection for workers and the maintenance of exit routes. The company agreed to pay $41,000 in penalties.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said state emergency response teams, including homeland security staffers, state police, environmental conservation enforcement officers and health department technicians, were dispatched to the factory. 

"Following today's chemical explosion, I am directing a multi-agency investigation to get to the bottom of what happened and review compliance with state labor and environmental laws," Cuomo said in a statement.

Verla is located in New Windsor, about 55 miles north of New York City. It is about a half mile from the town hall and police station. The factory makes nail polish, lotions, perfumes and other cosmetic products, according to its website. There are nearly 400 employees working for the company, but it's unclear how many were on site when the incident occurred.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.