RADFORD, Va. (AP) -- Anxious relatives waited outside today as rescuers searched for two workers missing after an explosion tore apart an industrial plant and killed at least one employee. Six workers were hospitalized.
''There's a lot of twisted metal everywhere you look,'' Fire Chief Lee Simpkins said following the blast Sunday night at New River Castings, a plant that makes auto parts.
Families of the two missing women waited outside the plant today as dogs from Fairfax County's search and rescue team were being brought in to search the rubble.
The last hot spot of flames was extinguished this morning.
The cause of the explosion was under investigation, but there were reports of a natural gas buildup. Simpkins estimated damage at $30 million to $50 million. Witnesses said at least one wall at the main plant was destroyed.
About 100 workers were in the plant at the time of the 9:30 p.m. blast, he said.
Marie Hamilton said her daughter-in-law, Karen Anderson Hamilton, of Christiansburg, was one of the missing workers.
''I'm just hoping and praying that she's in a cubbyhole somewhere and all right,'' said Hamilton.
She said her son, Douglas, was working at the plant when the explosion happened but was uninjured. The couple had been married just six months.
Roy Davis said his girlfriend, Debbie Sheppard, was the other missing woman.
The Roanoke Times quoted an unidentified worker as saying that employees had been told of a natural gas buildup in the basement. Representatives of United Cities Gas Co. were at the scene.
Witnesses said flames rose 20 feet above the plant roof.
''All of a sudden I saw a big orange ball of fire, and everything was pitch black,'' plant worker Scott Hetherington told the newspaper.
The explosion ''sounded like something was coming through the roof of my house,'' said Sherri Birkelbach, who lives about three blocks away.
Seven workers were hospitalized but one was released this morning. Two were in serious but stable condition and the conditions of the others weren't available. Others were treated for smoke inhalation and minor cuts and bruises. New River Castings and a related parts manufacturer, Lynchburg Foundry, are owned by Troy, Mich.-based Intermet Corp.
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