Several presumed dead after the explosion of a chemical factory in Kocevje

An explosion and fire at a chemical plant in southeastern Slovenia has left at least four people missing and presumed dead, officials said Thursday.

Emergency officials said two other people were hospitalized in critical condition with severe burns after the blast, which was reported around 8:30 a.m. (0630 GMT) in the town of Kocevje.

The Melamin factory has approximately 200 employees.

Company chief Srecko Stefanic said rescuers were looking for at least four missing people.

“We have to take into account the story of the missing, who are probably dead, because the incident was of such magnitude that it is difficult to survive,” said Srecko Stefanic.

The two people in critical condition were transferred to a hospital in the capital Ljubljana.

A total of 20 people have requested medical assistance, authorities said.

It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion, which sent black smoke billowing from the plant.

Authorities, who initially asked people to stay indoors, later said preliminary tests showed no health threat.

Melamin manufactures chemicals including melamine resins for the paper, construction, wood, rubber and lacquer industry, impregnated decorative paper for the furniture industry and impregnated materials for shoemaking .

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