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French police investigate chemical plant explosions

The incident occurred near a military base where grenades and explosives were stolen last week.

By Ed Adamczyk
Smoke from an explosion at a French petrochemical facility could be seen for miles. Photo courtesy of Jeremy P./ Facebook.
Smoke from an explosion at a French petrochemical facility could be seen for miles. Photo courtesy of Jeremy P./ Facebook.

MARSEILLE , France, July 15 (UPI) -- An electronic device was found Wednesday near the site of the explosion of two petrochemical tanks in southern France.

The nighttime explosions at the Barre-l'Etang refinery near Marseille airport, owned by the American Lyondellbasell chemical company, caused a fire which burned for hours, and a black cloud of smoke which could be seen for miles. No injuries were reported.

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Police sources said the device, which may have started the fires Tuesday in two large tanks, one filled with oil, the other with the petroleum distillate naphtha, is under investigation. The two tanks are over a quarter-mile apart. The incident was previously described as malicious, and occurred 19 miles from the Mirimas military munitions camp where grenades, detonators and explosives were stolen last week.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve ordered increased security at sensitive sites throughout the country. Jean-Marc Seanateur, Istres-area police sub-prefect, said it was too early to tell if the military camp theft and the explosions were linked.

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