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Body of worker recovered after cosmetics factory blast, fire

NEW WINDSOR, N.Y.
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nycl100-1120_2017_130033

NEW WINDSOR, N.Y. — Authorities recovered the body of a male worker reported missing after two explosions and a fire at a New York cosmetics factory left 30 to 35 people injured, including seven firefighters caught in the second blast, officials said Monday.

"A deceased male employee was recovered from the plant fire at approximately 7:40 p.m.," Orange County spokesman Justin Rodriguez said in a statement Monday night. He gave no additional details.

Police said the first explosion occurred around 10:15 a.m. Monday at the Verla International cosmetics factory in New Windsor, about an hour's drive from New York City. Firefighters who responded were inside when the second explosion occurred around 10:40 a.m.

Up to 35 people were being treated for injuries, including seven firefighters, most of them from the nearby city of Newburgh, Town Supervisor George Green said. Two of the firefighters were taken to the burn unit at Westchester Medical Center, he said. None of the injuries appear to be life-threatening.

There was no word on a cause of the blaze, which fire crews and hazardous materials teams were battling into the night.

Verla was cited for nine occupational safety violations earlier this year, according to records on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's website. One was related to problems with the handling of flammable and combustible liquids.

The federal agency also cited inadequacies relating to respirator protection for workers and the maintenance of exit routes. The company agreed to pay $41,000 in penalties.

Television video from Monday's explosions showed thick, black smoke spewing from a section of the roof of the sprawling facility, which includes manufacturing and warehouse buildings. Workers milled about a parking lot while fire crews looked on.

"It's still an active fire scene," Green said, adding that the flames were "knocked down pretty well at this point."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said state emergency response teams have been sent to the factory. State personnel dispatched included homeland security staffers, state police, environmental conservation enforcement officers and health department technicians, the Democratic governor said. The state also will investigate working conditions and regulatory compliance at the plant.

"Following today's chemical explosion, I am directing a multi-agency investigation to get to the bottom of what happened and review compliance with state labour and environmental laws," he said in a statement.

The factory is about a half-mile from the town hall and police station in New Windsor, on the Hudson River's west bank, 55 miles (88 kilometres) north of New York City. The 37-year-old New Windsor-based company's website says the products it makes include nail polish, perfumes, lotions and other products.

The company's phone number wasn't working. An email sent to the company wasn't answered.

The Associated Press