England

Berkshire and Oxfordshire crews fight factory fire

Hermitage fire
Image caption The plume of smoke could be seen from Chieveley

A major blaze on an industrial estate in Berkshire has left clouds of thick black smoke "floating across the sky".

People living near Red Shute Hill in Hermitage reported being awoken by an explosion at about 09:00 GMT.

A caller to BBC Radio Berkshire, who gave her name as Kate, said: "The sky above my head is black. It's really bad and it smells terrible. It's a really, really strong, horrible burning smell."

The fire, which involved chemicals, was out by 13:30, the fire service said.

Kate, who said the explosion echoed through Hermitage, added: "It kind of smells like rubber... a really horrible choking smell. It's not nice."

'Pretty grim'

Thames Valley Police said the thick plumes of black smoke could spread to south Oxfordshire, and warned residents to keep windows and doors shut.

Roger Mitchell, from Chieveley, said: "We're a couple of miles away. There's masses of huge clouds of black smoke floating across the sky and it looks pretty grim."

Nick Oxborough, from Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue, said the fire, which started in Sawmill Road, was under control, but its cause was unknown.

"Being Boxing Day it's very difficult to make contact with building occupiers to understand the full inventory," he said.

He added that the factory manufactured paving slabs, and used various chemicals in the process.

The fire was extinguished at about 13:30. Damping down will continue into the evening.

The whole of the industrial estate and several nearby roads have been closed, with motorists still being warned to stay away.

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