WATCH: Explosion rocks Evendale grain elevator

CINCINNATI -- Fire, smoke and confusion filled the air in the village of Evendale Friday morning after an explosion inside a grain elevator rattled local businesses.

The loud booms heard just after 11:40 a.m. came from a facility owned by Bunge North America, a global agribusiness and food company, in the 2800 block of E. Sharon Road.

Fire crews said Friday night that they'd remain at the grain elevator, 12 hours after the explosion. Twenty-four hours later, on Saturday morning, crews were still at the facility watching grain still smolder in the location's sub-basement.

"We may have wet down the top layer and made a crust but underneath it was still burning and burned all night," said Evendale Fire Chief Michael Hauck Saturday morning. "We did have people here most of the night and when we returned at daylight, we found the smoke and it had traveled to the second floor as well."

Hauck said he sent in teams of two into a labyrinth of underground belts and storage to put out those fires, and hopefully prevent a second explosion at the location.

"So, we are trying to keep the dust to a minimum," he said. "If the dust concentration gets to the right point, and we've introduced an ignition source, we are going to have another explosion so we are trying to deviate from that."

Since Friday afternoon there have been more than 100 firefighters from around the area who have turned up to work hour-long shifts. Two of them required treatment with an IV.

"In this high heat and humidity that we have, there’s very little airflow within that stairwell,” said Hauck, speaking of the tight single pathway spiral staircase the crew has to climb. "When we rotate them out... we put them in their trucks and send them home."

When the chief and his crew left the scene Saturday night they said they were "confident" about the situation. However they plan to head back in the morning to ensure there are no lingering hot spots.

WATCH IN MEDIA PLAYER: WCPO OBTAINED VIDEO OF THE EXPLOSION

That sense of optimism replaced a feeling of confusion and nervousness expressed by some on Friday.

Moments after the incident, Twitter user Tina Joslyn reported hearing and then seeing the explosion, watching as blankets of thick smoke and clouds of dust poured out over the complex. Others looked on as a large fireball erupted from the right side of the building.

"The explosion was enormous, slightly muffled, (so) I knew it wasn't thunder," she told WCPO. "(I) thought a semi truck had run into our building!"

An employee at Taylor Logistics says she felt her office shake. It's less than 100 yards away from the the Bunge North America site.

While no injuries have been reported, the damage to the facility is visibly apparent.

Several doors were blown out by the force of the explosion and remnants of windows still dangle along the walls of the towering structure. The blast is also blamed for causing equipment in the building to catch fire.

RELATED: PHOTOS OF DAMAGE FROM THE EXPLOSION

By 12:30 p.m. it was reported the blaze was under control, but some traffic issues remained in the area as fire crews continued their investigation. 

The building was evacuated as well as a 1/8 of a mile area surrounding the complex because of a risk of secondary explosions. Those affected won't be allowed to return until an "all-clear" is given by firefighters.

"(It's) extremely dangerous -- Residual dust explosions, that's why we have so many units on scene. For us to enter the structure is extremely dangerous at this time," Hauck said.

Employees at both Bunge and Taylor said they were told to go home for the rest of the day. Bungee officials have not said when employees will return to work.

Fire officials believe the "henhouse," the tall structure next to the silos, is where the explosion occurred, the chief said.

Deb Seidel, Bunge communications director, told WCPO they're still looking into what happened.

"All we know at this time is that was an explosion and no employees were hurt,'' she said, adding that she's not aware of any previous issues at the elevator.

The company is sending a team to work with investigators.

The Sharon Road facility is a grain elevator, or a tower containing a bucket elevator or a pneumatic conveyor that scoops up grain from a lower level and deposits it in a silo or another type of storage facility.

Seidel isn't yet sure what is stored there, but said it's either corn or soybean.

Bunge North America, the North American arm of Bunge Limited, is headquartered in White Plains, New York. In 2012, Bunge Limited acquired Central Soya, an oilseed company, that used to operate in the space.

WCPO will update this story when more information is available. 

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