Firefighters spray water on a a blaze near Tokyo Koichi Kamoshida, Getty Images

Firefighters spray water on a a blaze near Tokyo. Flames erupted Monday at a Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal plant on Monday, raging for close to two hours.

Fire Burns at Steel Plant Near Tokyo Airport

Workers might have started the fire by using gas burners to dismantle the plant, which stopped operations in June and will close later this year.

TOKYO — A huge blaze broke out Monday at a steel pipe plant near Tokyo’s Haneda airport, as television images showed plumes of thick black smoke and flames shooting up into the air.

The steel pipe-making facility covers 224,000 square feet and  operates a pair of manufacturing lines less than one mile from the airport. Aerial television footage showed the blaze stretched across a long, narrow warehouse after it was first reported at 11:36 am local time.

The Kawasaki city fire department said the blaze at the plant, owned by a unit of giant steelmaker Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal, might have been caused by workers who were using gas burners to dismantle the site.

The fire was put out shortly after 1:30 pm local time, after close to two hours.

“The plant had stopped operations in June, and there were not many workers in the facility at the time of the fire,” a company official told AFP, adding that it was to be closed later this year.

The fire reportedly spread next door to a cosmetics factory owned by Japan’s Kao, where about 600 employees had been evacuated from the site, according to public broadcaster NHK.

The steel pipe plant fire came just hours after a blast ripped through a warehouse at a U.S. military post near Tokyo, sending sparks into the sky and triggering a blaze that burned through the night, although there were no reports of injuries. The cause of that explosion was being investigated.

Last year, at least 15 people were injured after an explosion at a Nippon Steel plant in central Japan. It followed a series of accidents at the site, which prompted the mayor of Tokai, a city of about 100,000 people, to formally ask the steelmaker to draw up a plan to deal with any safety problems.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015

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