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Fire in battery plant raises concerns about environmental impact in Xanthi

Five small villages were evacuated after a fire in a batteries production factory broke out Tuesday noon. The fire broke out around 1 o’ clock at the Sunlight battery plant in Neo Olvio in the outskirts of the town on Xanthi in North-Easter Greece.

Sweeping through plastic and other flammable materials, the blaze released big smog clouds in the area. Residents were urged to remain inside their homes, schools and kindergartens were ordered to close on Wednesday and Thursday as  precautionary measure.                    .

After several hours, fire fighters managed to take the fire under control, however, fire fighters were still operating on Wednesday morning to assure the fire has been totally extinguished.

Local authorities, scientists, farmers and breeders are highly concerned about possible toxic pollution in the atmosphere and the impact on the environment in an area that is mainly agricultural.

Plant officials said that it was only plastic items that they were burned, and not lead which is used for the batteries production.

The plant owners have reportedly assigned a private technical company to investigate possible environmental impact, while 3 stations have been installed to measure possible atmospheric pollution. The company reassures there is no toxic smog released in the atmosphere.

After an emergency meeting on Tuesday night, local authorities decided to implement precautionary measures for 48 hours. The measures affect a 15-km radius area around the plant and include also avoiding agriculture and farming animals outdoors.

It is mainly farmers and breeders who are concerned about the possible toxic smog, while also scientists express concern, when the heavy metals particles fall to earth and on agricultural land, they will pass to the food chain.

“The heart of the factory burned down,” the Sunlight company said adding that it is looking to resume operation as soon as possible. “All work places will remain, and workers will be paid until the factory resumes operation, the Sunlight said in a statement. The plant is considered to be one of the biggest of its kind in Europe and gives work to 800 people.

At the time of the fire, the plant was actually closed due to the 1. May holiday.

One worker was transferred to hospital with respiratory problems.

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