Factory explosion follows police raid
A police drug raid on a disused factory nearly turned into a disaster yesterday when it was rocked by huge explosions.
Witnesses say the Katikati factory, which used to make lawnmowers, was a suspected Mongrel Mob methamphetamine or P lab.
One of three people taken from the building by police after the explosion had no shirt on, revealing a large Mob tattoo on his back.
Police could not confirm whether it was a P lab, saying it was too hot to enter.
One of the Park Rd neighbours, Bronwyn Rickard, said the property had changed ownership about a year ago and while nobody lived in it, there were a lot of visitors.
"There were people coming and going at all times of the day and night."
She said armed police moved in yesterday morning around the building, when there was "a reasonably loud explosion".
Bay of Plenty police spokeswoman Kim Perks confirmed police were executing a drugs warrant when a large fire began in an industrial-style building at the property that needed several fire appliances. "There was a significant amount of smoke as a result of the fire so police temporarily evacuated a small number of people from nearby buildings as a precaution," the police said.
No-one was injured.
Amateur video taken at the time showed armed offenders squad officers surrounding the building and then backing off quickly as heavy black smoke and popping explosions followed.
Police told people downwind to move away quickly as the strong-smelling smoke could have been toxic.
The fire service said the blaze in the building was intense and took a long time to bring under control. It would need time to cool down before anybody could enter.
Police said they were talking to two men and a woman who were at the building.
No arrests were made.