Louisiana Town Evacuated after 6 Million Pounds of Explosives Discovered

When 6 million pounds of explosive material are uncovered in your hometown, perhaps it’s time to consider relocating.

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Louisiana State Police / AP Photo

This photo, released Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012 by the Louisiana State Police, shows piles of explosive powder stored at the Camp Minden industrial site that officials say were improperly housed by a company.

When 6 million pounds of explosive material are uncovered in your hometown, perhaps it’s time to consider relocating. That’s the situation residents of Doyline, La., found themselves in last Friday, when police discovered countless boxes and barrels of explosives stored improperly in local buildings, the Associated Press reported.

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State police began evacuating the northwestern Louisiana town when the explosives were found in buildings rented by Explo Systems Inc., which describes itself on its website as a “demilitarizing” company that recovers explosive materials from munitions. The company is stationed at nearby Camp Minden, which was previously home to the Louisiana Ammunitions Plant, state police superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson told the AP. About half of the town’s 800 locals heeded Friday’s evacuation advisory, the AP reported.

Police were initially on site last week to investigate an October explosion in one of Explo’s storage magazines, Reuters reported. Authorities then found the company’s hazardous stash, which Edmonson said showed “careless and reckless disregard” for the safety of Doyline residents. Cardboard boxes of M6 artillery propellant—which is used in howitzers and other artillery—were crammed into sheds and piled on top of each other behind Explo’s main buildings, authorities told the AP.

“It was stuffed in corners,”superintendent Edmonson said. “It was stacked all over.”

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Capt. Doug Cain, a state police spokesman, noted that the material was not in the company’s storage magazines but had instead been hidden in decidedly unsuitable places.

Police originally believed there were about one million pounds of the smokeless black powder, but when they began moving the stockpile to secure bunkers two miles away they found more boxes. Within two days, authorities said they transferred almost a million pounds—shipped in 27 eighteen-wheeler trucks—from the overcrowded buildings into appropriate containers in safer storage bunkers, according to the AP.

On Monday, state officials told the AP that stormy weather could delay further efforts to securely remove the material. Thunderstorms were forecast for Tuesday, and crews plan to suspend the transfer process if lightning strikes within five miles of the industrial site.

“That’s a lot of product, a lot of dangers in there, there are a lot of worst-case scenarios, we need to work through those safely,” Edmonson told KSLA News 12.

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Authorities said the owners of Explo were in South Korea when police found the materials. The company is now the subject of a criminal investigation, the AP reported.

Schools in Doyline were closed on Monday, and they are expected to remain shut on Tuesday, according to KSLA. The town, which is about 40 miles south of the Arkansas border, has been a setting for some scenes in HBO’s gothic vampire drama, True Blood.

Edmonson told the AP that the evacuation will be lifted once enough of the material has been moved to prevent a major problem if some of it ignites.

“Nobody can tell you what 6 million pounds of explosives would do if it went up,” Edmonson said to the AP. “And I don’t want to find out.”

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