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February 11, 2014

Explosion at N.H. ball bearings plant rocks town, injures 15

PETERBOROUGH, N.H. (AP) — An explosion rocked a small-town ball bearings plant on Monday, sending at least 15 people to the hospital, but a company spokeswoman said none of their injuries appeared to be life-threatening.

The blast blew out windows on the building’s ground floor, Peterborough Fire Department spokesman Eric Bowman said. There was no fire, and a hazardous-materials team was investigating.

It was unclear what caused the explosion at New Hampshire Ball Bearings Inc., company spokeswoman Kathy Gerrity said. First responders will try to determine the extent of the damage to the facility, and it was unknown when it will be back in operation because it would need to be inspected and deemed safe first, she said.

The plant, in the southwest New Hampshire town that was the inspiration for Thornton Wilder’s play “Our Town,” manufactures high-tech parts for the aerospace industry and employs 700 people. Gerrity said she wasn’t sure how many people were inside when the explosion happened Monday afternoon but there are usually about 450 working around that time.

Bill Brock, owner of the Manhattan East Hair Design shop about a quarter-mile from the plant, said he heard and felt something but didn’t know what it was. Then about 30 ambulances and fire trucks went by.

Gov. Maggie Hassan said the state emergency operations center was open to monitor the situation and she was “very encouraged” to hear that all employees had been accounted for.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to those injured in today’s explosion, to their families and loved ones, and to the entire Peterborough area where NH Ball Bearings is such an important member of the community,” she said in a statement.

Police advised drivers to avoid Route 202 through Peterborough, which has about 6,400 residents.

Local hospitals were asked to prepare for patients who may have been exposed to hazardous materials.

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