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TAR HEEL, NC (WWAY) — Smithfield Foods says it is working with local emergency agencies to determine the cause of an apparent ammonia leak at its packing plant in Tar Heel in Bladen County, a company spokeswoman said.

An employee tells us there was an ammonia explosion, which caused workers to have burning eyes and made it hard to breathe. Witnesses say there was a plume of smoke, and then workers started choking.

Around 11 a.m. about 2,400 workers were evacuated from the world’s largest pork processing plant after a water tank knocked off the valve of an inactive ammonia tank.

Those workers were the first shift. The second shift of about 2,400 workers will not come to work today.

About eight or nine people went to the hospital for observation. The company is not sure if that’s because of exposure to the ammonia or from heat exhaustion while they waited outside.

The incident is still under investigation.

A Smithfield representative said safety is a priority.

“Things do happen, but if you’re properly trained, and properly prepared, which we were, and we are, we’re prepared to handle what happens and especially with the support we receive from the agencies in the area,” Smithfield’s Dennis Pittman said.

The company won’t know when things will be back up and running until at least tomorrow. Still no word on if workers will be paid for missed shifts.

Comment on this Story

  • SurfCityTom

    you really need to get a life. If the best you can throw out are a few aspersions in my direction, you have a pathetic life.

    But as I’ve previously noted, you can stop worrying; the City included a 2% increase in the Film Commission subsidy.

  • SurfCityTom

    I suppose there are still small minds trying to upscale yours truly after he predicted, weeks in advance, how the film incentive process would play out.

  • Heimie Schmelter

    Which was the very basis of SCT’s question. Remember, the Chinese bought out all of the Smithfield assets and that is the reason for his inquiry. Since labor in their country is nothing other than expendable resources, it brings to question if that’s the case with their US operations.

    Try to accurately read the question and understand it before providing another smart-assed answer.

  • SurfCityTom

    never said it did. My comment referred to another poster.

    You might want to work on reading comprehension.

    And if your name happens to be Johnny, you can stop worrying. The approved City Budget gave the Film Commission a 2% increase in subsidy to $117,000.

  • SayWha?

    Smithfield Foods are the Chinese. Remember, the Chinese bought out all of the assets. Since their labor force for this company is in America, and not China, the company will essentially conform to U.S. regulation and practise. The inference of the original question was that the Chinese can operate as if the factory was actually in China instead of here and that’s just nonsensical. The sky is not falling just because the Chinese purchased an American business Chicken Little.

    Try to accurately asses the situation before responding.

  • Guestman.

    Please tell me what film incentives has to do with this story?

  • Guestman.

    Still obsessed, are we?

  • SurfCityTom

    a straight forward question.

    On the other hand, some may consider your name SayWha? as insulting to those of Chinese background.

    In fact, they may be so offended, they file an action with some civil rights group to prohibit your type of mindless postings.

  • Guestman.

    Which poster said anything about film incentives other than you. Are you out of your mind or are you just obsessed with the film industry? You need to go back to Raleigh on your fish wagon again.

  • SayWha?

    “Smithfield Foods says it is working with local emergency agencies to determine the cause of an apparent ammonia leak”; that’s what they’re doing about it. (1st sentence in story)

  • guesty

    The sent over the man in charge of safety, Mr. Sum Ting Wong.

  • SurfCityTom

    doing about it. They bought the assests of Smithfield Foods when they purchased the company.

  • cindy

    This company tortures and abuses the animals. Are we suppose to feel sorry for them? Pigs are intelligent animals and this company tortures them. Pigs are smarter than dogs and have the mentality of a 3 year old child. This company has been charged with animal cruelty in the past and still continues to torture the pigs.

  • Long Live the Pigs

    The animals? The animals that are being torture are also going to be eaten by thousands of Americans? Let’s do something about those terrible Americans eating those poor pigs!!!

  • Long Live the Pigs

    The animals? The animals that are being torture are also going to be eaten by thousands of Americans? Let’s do something about those terrible Americans eating those poor pigs!!!

  • tommy

    So the 2400 employees on 1st shift were evacuated. What about the pigs in the factory? Did the company evacuate them as well and let them go about their business? Or will there be a big batch of ammonia-smelling bacon coming out of tar heel in a few days?

  • Fmlytracer

    So 2400 people at the plant and a community are at risk because of an ammonia leak and you are worried about pork chops on hoof? What type of a person worries more about animals than human beings. Seriously, what do you? You do know that plants are also living organisms? When you eat that lettuce in your salad, you have killed a plant. It was living until some idiot came long with a cutting knife and decapitated it and you ATE IT!!!

  • Guestman.

    I see nothing funny with racist jokes.

  • SurfCityTom

    I’m still chuckling.

    But, in China, this would not be a significant occurance. One has to wonder if, over time, Chinese values will set in with a heightened focus on the bottom line.

    On another note, the plant remains closed through Wednesday. Any guesses as to whether those 2,400 hourly employees are being paid for not coming to work?

    In China, they would not.

  • Wilmington Observer

    You see nothing funny “with racist jokes”. I see no racist jokes.

    Just because someone put “Chinese” in their comment you want to pull out the race card? Our community is going down the drain because of people’s knee jerk, politically correct, reaction every time someone simply mentions someone’s race, sex, disability, sexual preferences, religious beliefs
    or living location. You want people to be afraid to mention anything that makes someone “different” but it is just not working anymore. Society is getting fed up with it.

    Wilmington Observer

  • SurfCityTom

    and amend a statement from Rhett Butler “…Frankly…” I don’t give a rat’s behind about your perception of humor.

    Why not focus on the serious issue — the adoption, over time, of Chinese levels for workplace safety.

    Scurry back into your burrow now before the light of day shines on your level of intelligence.

  • Kris

    If I may ask, where did you hear that the plant will be closed through Wednesday?

  • SurfCityTom

    read it. Management and hazmat personnel are onsite to ensure all is clear.

  • SurfCityTom

    extremely hard to lower my intelligence to your level. It wasn’t easy. But I had to make the effort if you were to continue being a troll.

  • Guestman

    Talk about levels of intelligence. It doesn’t say much for yours to enjoy such sophomoric humor(?) as that.

  • Fire man

    The Fire Dept set up a cooling system at the request of the company to keep the live hogs cool and alive.
    the FDA is inspecting meat at the plant and most will be destroyed that was possible exposed. Most of the meat is in a Big Warehouse up the street from the release.
    Also Just to comment, the Emergency Workers, Tar Heel Middle School, and Community did excellent job at helping those workers, DuPont even came down and helped. yes they helped the hogs to but PEOPLE FIRST


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