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Huge explosion rocks paper mill in Maine

An explosion at a paper mill in Maine shook the ground Wednesday and produced a plume of black smoke that was visible for miles. Officials at the mill told Maine State Police that all employees have been accounted for and there are no injuries, according to CBS affiliate WGME-TV.

Multiple crews rushed to the scene. Video posted to social media appears to show the explosion and the aftermath. Pixelle, the mill owner, said the only reported injuries were respiratory issues from dust and debris.

The explosion rocked the Androscoggin Mill in Jay, about 70 miles north of Portland, around noon, state police spokesman Steve McCausland said.

Photos from the scene show large plumes of smoke coming from the the former Verso Paper Mill. "I saw out of the corner of my eye a big cloud of muffled smoke," Rebecca Burhoe told WGME.

Emergency responders were headed to the scene, and the Maine State Fire Marshal planned an investigation.

The cause of the explosion wasn't immediately clear, McCausland said.

Pixelle said there was an apparent rupture in a pressure vessel in the pulp mill, an area where there were no workers. The company said the debris is mostly a mixture of wood fiber, water and a pulping chemical.

Governor Janet Mills said she was "closely monitoring the situation."

Senator Susan Collins of Maine also addressed the situation, thanking the "brave first responders" and saying she was praying for people's safety.

The paper mill was sold by Ohio-based Verso Paper in February to a specialty paper producer in Pennsylvania.

Pixelle Specialty Solutions, a privately held company in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, acquired both the Jay mill and another mill in Wisconsin in a $400 million deal. Pixelle said at the time that the deal would make it the largest specialty paper business in the U.S. in terms of annual production.

The mill was built in the mid-1960s. Jay is a community of about 5,000 people.  

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