• Kyodo

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A fire broke out Monday at a Bridgestone Corp. tire plant in Kuroiso, Tochigi Prefecture, forcing more than 5,000 nearby residents to evacuate.

There were no reports of injuries, and police are trying to identify the cause of the fire.

The fire was still burning in the evening, after it broke out around noon, generating thick black smoke and occasional minor explosions.

The blaze started in a three-story facility used for mixing chemicals and rubber.

Local authorities mobilized 16 fire engines and a firefighting helicopter in a bid to douse the flames, while the Kuroiso Municipal Government ordered 2,140 residents in 728 nearby homes to evacuate.

According to Bridgestone, the plant, situated on a 514,000-sq.-meter site, produces tires for cars, buses and trucks. It is one of the firm’s main production facilities in Japan; it started operating in 1971 and has a workforce of 850.

The plant is located along National Highway No. 4 and is only 1 km southeast of Nasu-Shiobara Station on the JR Tohoku Shinkansen Line.

Bullet train operations were not affected by the fire.

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