updated 10/7/2005 3:10:13 AM ET 2005-10-07T07:10:13

At least eight people were injured Thursday in a series of explosions and a fire at a plastics plant in southern Texas that sent a pillar of black smoke into the sky.

Calhoun County Justice of the Peace Gary Noska said late Thursday that many of the town’s nearly 1,000 residents had evacuated voluntarily. “The town right now is pretty empty,” he said.

Authorities closed nearby roads as crews worked to extinguish the blaze. Calhoun County Commissioner Michael Balajka said it appeared no toxic materials had been released into the air.

The plant is owned by Formosa Plastics Corp. USA, based in Livingston, N.J. Company spokesman Rob Thibault said the fire was under control as of about 9 p.m.

He said that the plant uses many flammable materials in manufacturing PVC and vinyl for floor and wall coverings. He said the factory, which employs about 1,000 people, had been evacuated.

Noska said he was at City Hall when he heard the blast.

“It was actually two explosions, a smaller one and second one a lot louder and bigger, and then a few smaller ones after that,” he said. “It was some major damage.”

At least one of the victims was in serious condition with burns, a hospital official said.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was to investigate.

Point Comfort, on the Texas coast, is 150 miles southeast of San Antonio.

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