Explosion rocks ball bearing factory

Last updated 13:29 11/02/2014

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An explosion has rocked a small-town ball bearings plant, sending at least 15 people to the hospital, but a company spokeswoman said none of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening.

The blast occurred shortly after 3.30pm on Monday (local time) and blew out windows on the building's ground floor, Peterborough Fire Department spokesman Eric Bowman said. There was no fire, and a hazardous-materials team was investigating.

It was unclear what caused the explosion at New Hampshire Ball Bearings Inc, company spokeswoman Kathy Gerrity said.

The plant, in the southwest New Hampshire town that was the inspiration for Thornton Wilder's play Our Town, employs 700 people. Gerrity said she wasn't sure how many people were inside when the explosion happened but there are usually about 450 working around that time.

Bill Brock, owner of the Manhattan East Hair Design shop about a quarter-mile from the plant, said he heard and felt something but didn't know what it was. Then about 30 ambulances and fire trucks went by.

Governor Maggie Hassan said the state emergency operations centre was open to monitor the situation. Police advised drivers to avoid Route 202 through Peterborough, which has about 6400 residents.

Local hospitals were asked to prepare for patients who may have been exposed to hazardous materials.

Two of the 15 people who were treated at Monadnock Community Hospital later were flown to other hospitals, spokeswoman Laura Gingras said, and seven were released by Monday evening.

Peterborough, besides inspiring Our Town, a Pulitzer Prize-winning play first performed in 1938, is home to the MacDowell Colony, a prestigious retreat for artists, writers and composers. Wilder based the fictional town of Grover's Corners on Peterborough, where he often spent his summers.

New Hampshire Ball Bearings' corporate headquarters are in Chatsworth, California. It's a division of Japanese company Minebea.

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- AP

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