Multiple Explosions Rock Missouri Chemical Plant

Multiple explosions at a chemical distribution facility shook an industrial area of Kansas City Wednesday, sending an ominous smoke cloud above the downtown skyline and prompting the evacuation of nearby schools and businesses.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The explosions and fire at the Chemcentral plant in the area known as the East Bottoms, just northeast of downtown, billowed smoke that could be seen for at least 30 miles around the city. There were no immediate reports of injuries. The cloud appeared to be dropping a sticky substance as it moved southwest across metropolitan area.

Fire Chief Richard Dyer said officials were evacuating a one-square-mile area around the plant and were going door-to-door through several blocks to get people out.

Dan Brennan, an attorney for Bedford Park, Ill.-based Chemcentral, said the company distributes various chemicals and solvents and it was not immediately clear what caused the explosions. Brennan said the plant has 15 to 20 workers.

"To the best of my knowledge there have been no injuries. Everyone was evacuated safely," Brennan said.

The fire began after several 55-gallon drums containing chemicals exploded, touching off more explosions and fires, including blasts from three, 30,000-gallon tankers, Kansas City Fire Marshal Floyd Peoples said.

Emergency responders from the Environmental Protection Agency were on the scene.

The Kansas City school district sent students from six elementary schools in the northeast area to Paseo High School to keep them as far away from the explosions as possible, a district spokeswoman said.