Fire rages in Kent factory following 'huge explosion' at industrial unit

4 September 2020, 10:17 | Updated: 4 September 2020, 12:43

By Matt Drake

This is the shocking moment a 'huge explosion' went off at a Kent factory in the early hours of Friday morning,

Flames and a plume of black smoke could be seen rising from the site in Hoo, near Rochester, following the incident.

Members of the public are being asked to avoid the area as firefighters continue to tackle the incident.

Kent Fire and Rescue Service said ten fire engines were sent the scene at 4.40am.

But the fire is now under control, the fire service added.

There have been no reports of injuries or casualties.

Around 200 people had to be evacuated while emergency services responded.

Video on social media shows huge flames from the blaze in Vicarage Lane lighting up the night sky, while people posting online have talked of an explosion.

The fire has continued to burn and at one point on Friday morning a billowing mushroom of fire was seen rising up into the sky.

Joe Discipline, an onlooker from Rochester in Kent, said: "Around 4/4.30am a huge explosion shook the house and windows. I jumped out of bed to see the sky was orange.

Members of the public are being asked to avoid the area as firefighters continue to tackle the incident
Members of the public are being asked to avoid the area as firefighters continue to tackle the incident. Picture: Twitter

"There was then a second explosion just as big and that's when I started to record."

As the blaze burned a huge plume of thick black smoke issued hundreds of feet into the air, prompting the fire service to tell nearby members of the public to close windows and doors.

Gas cylinders were involved in the blaze.

A spokesperson for Kent Fire and Rescue Service said: "Kent Fire and Rescue Service is at the scene of an industrial building fire on Vicarage Lane in Hoo, near Rochester.

"Ten fire engines and a height vehicle are in attendance, and crews are working to tackle the blaze.

"Firefighters are advising the public to avoid the area while the emergency services deal with the incident."

Paul, 60, who chose not to give his second name, lives on St Mary's Island, across the River Medway from the fire, where he awoke and watched from around 5am.

"I heard cracking and things exploding, so then started to video it - then all of a sudden, boom, it was a big, big explosion," the sales manager said.

"I was thinking, is it going to be like Beirut? At the end of the day, you see the mushroom cloud, then there might have been a secondary explosion which was even bigger, so I was just a little bit worried.

"It was eventful to wake up to, that's for sure."

A former Royal Engineer, Paul said the explosion reminded him of gas explosions he had seen while working with the British Army.

"I was just concerned that nobody was hurt ... because of that size of the explosion, it's going to blow a few windows out, that's for sure," he added.

Ten fire engines were sent to the scene as firefighters continued to tackle the blaze.

Incident commander, group manager Mark Woodward, said: "The smoke plume may look daunting, but really it's very similar to what you would get in a house fire.

"The fire is now under control, however, we are going to be here for some time."