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Silo collapses at Fonterra Southland plant

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 16/09/2016

New Zealand diary giant Fonterra doesn't know why a silo containing milk collapsed at its Edendale plant but is sure it didn't explode.

Emergency services descended on the dairy processing plant northeast of Invercargill shortly before 2pm on Friday and State Highway 1 was closed outside it.

About 600 people are employed at the site, one of Fonterra's largest, at peak production, according to the co-operative's website.

All workers at the plant on Friday were safe and accounted for.

Chief operating officer Robert Spurway said the silo appeared to have failed and the collapse damaged a nearby pipebridge, creating the loud noise heard by locals.

The cause of the incident was not yet known, but Mr Spurway confirmed there was no explosion.

"The silo is one of about 100 silos on site, representing less than 10 per cent of Edendale's total capacity for raw milk storage," he said.

"Whilst some of the damage may take several weeks to repair, the situation is under control and we are now working to get the plant back up and running as normal," he said.

Fonterra said there could be some temporary impact on milk collection in the Southland region, and will keep affected farmers informed.

During peak season Edendale has the capacity to process the equivalent of about 650 tanker loads of milk each day.

In 2009 a new milk powder dryer was built. It has the ability to produce 28 tonnes of milk powder per hour.

Southland Fire Service area commander Bruce Stubbs told Radio New Zealand the structural integrity of nearby milk silos was being assessed and an exclusion and evacuation zone was in place so chemicals could be isolated.

Milk had escaped but was contained.

There was no fire.

A nearby resident told the Otago Daily Times the initial bang was loud, but steam then released was louder and sounded like a low-flying 747.

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