Cody S. Koehler, CNN • Updated 23rd December 2018
( CNN ) — A fertiliser factory explosion in Uganda Tuesday claimed at least 50 lives, according to police, who are warning the death toll could rise.
The blast occurred at plant operated by the US-based Africa Fertilizers Company in the eastern town of Mbale, local police commander Christopher Olughese told CNN.
Operations had been suspended after an explosion at the plant earlier this month, the company’s US-based parent company said.
“On October 26, an employee was injured when an equipment explosion occurred,” AfriFertilizers Co. Global said in a statement posted on Facebook.
“The injured employee was transferred to a hospital outside Uganda. We are keeping him in the awareness of his family, and are working to support him and his family in any way possible.”
Police said 585 people were injured in the accident.
Damage caused to the plant’s machinery and to surrounding buildings, forced workers to relocate.
AfriFertilizers’s Uganda operations are managed by a local subsidiary, Ambut Group.
The Department of Emergency Management and Refugee Affairs said the government was sending police and firefighters to help with rescue efforts.
Officials have told CNN there were no reports of foreigners being among the casualties.
In the wake of the disaster, tens of thousands of Ugandans from Mbale and neighboring regions poured into Mbale’s only open market for relief, food and fuel.
The disaster follows the second-deadliest earthquake to hit the region in more than a decade in 2017, an earthquake measured at magnitude 7.3 that killed nearly 800 people and injured over 6,000.
Two years earlier, a series of earthquakes shook Uganda and several neighboring countries, killing at least 4,100 people.