DOYLINE, La. (AP) — Authorities are slowly moving some of the 6 million pounds of explosives improperly stored at a munitions recycling facility because they feared a chain reaction blast could have spread through corridors packed with explosive materials, the sheriff of the threatened area said Tuesday.
A voluntary evacuation order for Doyline, a town of 800 people near the site and about 25 miles east of Shreveport, was expected to remain in effect until at least Friday while the material was moved to a safer location elsewhere on the sprawling Camp Minden grounds.
Webster Parish Sheriff Gary Sexton said Tuesday that the buildings operated by Explo Systems Inc. are several hundred yards apart but connected by above-ground corridors wide enough for a fork lift to shuttle materials between them.
He said state police who discovered the storage problems found the corridors stuffed with explosives, including a propellant called M6 that is used in artillery shells.
"We were concerned that an ignition in one building would spread from building to building," he said.
Dozens of workers at the Explo site were cautiously moving the materials to safe bunkers located on the former Army base. Officials were watching the weather, and would halt work if thunderstorms threatened. One of the corridors had been cleared by Tuesday, Sexton said.
The evacuation was requested over the weekend because authorities were unsure what would happen if the explosives were ignited.
"If you did have something go bump in the night, whether a fire, explosion or gigantic roman candle, we don't know what would happen and the professionals don't either," Sexton said.
Sexton said authorities have not been able to contact the owners of Explo Systems, who are thought to be returning from overseas, but are working with an on-site manager.
"The everyday workers with the company have been extremely good," Sexton said. "They are working to segregate the product for movement. But no one has had any luck contacting the higher officials of the company," he said.