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AP: Bunkers needed for explosives after evacuation

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 10, 2013 at 8:46 pm •  Published: January 10, 2013

Authorities say they have run out of bunker space at a Louisiana military base for some of the millions of pounds explosives that caused a town's evacuation after the material was found haphazardly stored at an explosives recycling company.

Sheriff Gary Sexton in Louisiana's Webster Parish told The Associated Press on Thursday that authorities are searching for more bunker space to store the military explosives that the company was hired to demilitarize. He said the material may have to be moved out of state.

Authorities have already moved more 6 million pounds of explosives, much of it into bunkers at Camp Minden, a Louisiana National Guard base, following an explosion in October triggered an investigation of Explo Systems Inc.

Explo Systems rents space at the sprawling base for its business and had a contract with the Army to demilitarize a military propellant called M6, which is used for artillery rounds.

The nearby town of Doyline was evacuated for about a week in December because authorizes feared any explosion could trigger a massive chain reaction blast.

Louisiana State Police Spokesman Matt Harris said Thursday that officials don't want to speculate on how much more material needs a proper storage facility, but there's enough that more bunkers are needed.

Sexton said the remaining material could still be packaged for sale, which authorities are encouraging. Any material the company sells is less that Louisiana officials will have to deal with.

"Weather has been a factor, but space is the number one factor," Sexton said.

When authorities found what they consider improperly stored material, some of it was in boxes stacked in buildings with other boxes packed into long corridors that connect those buildings.

Authorities feared that ignition of any of the propellant could cause a chain reaction that would race through the corridors and blow up multiple buildings, threatening Doyline and its 800 residents. The town's voluntary evacuation order in December kept children out of school and sent some people to live at camp sites in a nearby state park.

More of the material was found outside among threes and appeared to have been "hidden," State Police spokeswoman Julie Lewis has said. Some of the containers were spilling open.

Lt. Col. Michael Kazmierzak, a Louisiana National Guard spokesman, has said Explo officials asked early last year to lease more space at the base but that the request was turned down because the company was roughly $400,000 behind on rent. He said the company never again brought up the need for more space, but worked out a plan to pay back rent.

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