Tornado damages Italy's troubled Taranto steel mill

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Media captionA number of cars and buildings were damaged by Wednesday's tornado

A tornado has damaged a chimney stack and other parts of a vast steel mill in Taranto, southern Italy, where workers are protesting against pollution.

About 20 people were injured at the Ilva plant and one is missing after Wednesday's tornado.

It is Europe's biggest steel mill - a major employer in Taranto.

The mill has been blamed for unusually high rates of cancer in the area, but the firm denies any link. Workers are staging a sit-in there.

Divers are searching for the missing man, who was working on a crane believed to have been swept out to sea.

Pollution threat

Image caption The storm sparked a fire, and smoke billowed from the Ilva plant

There have long been concerns about pollution from the mill, but the firm denies that there is any link to cancer rates, the BBC's Alan Johnston reports from Rome.

On Monday, after a court investigating the pollution issue ordered the seizure of the plant's steel output, the management said that it would have to close.

In response, workers at the site have gone on strike and started a sit-in.

The dispute poses a major challenge for the government, which is now trying to find a way to tackle the pollution threat posed by the plant and keep it open, our correspondent reports.

If it were to close, thousands of jobs would disappear in what is already an economically depressed area. In addition, the plant supplies so much steel that there are fears about the impact its closure would have in many areas of Italian industry, he says.

The government had said it hoped to be able to put forward a plan to resolve the problems on Thursday, but it is not clear if this will now happen.