Schools close as toxic smoke cloud swirls over Santiago (VIDEOS)

Plumes of thick black smoke filled the skies over the Chilean capital on Monday, after a massive fire broke out at a factory north of the city. Locals have been advised to stay indoors and keep windows closed.

The blaze at an industrial building in the municipality of Quilicura started in the early hours of Monday morning. Photos and videos published on social media showed several warehouses engulfed in flames and an enormous pillar of dark smoke billowing overhead.

The clouds of smoke quickly spread out over the city and were clearly visible from afar, resembling the aftermath of a volcanic eruption. According to the Chilean Civil Aviation Agency, this didn’t interrupt operations at Santiago’s international airport, but local media reported that some flights arriving from the south had to be diverted.

The authorities have ordered schools in Quilicura and two neighboring municipalities to be closed due to the severity of the incident. “All types of smoke are toxic, and the effect we’re going to have will depend on the level of exposure and concentration,” said Miguel Muñoz, a regional director of the National Emergency Office.

He urged residents to close their windows to avoid exposure, and to contact their local health center if they suffered any major discomfort. The immediate vicinity of the factory has been cordoned off and traffic was diverted while the emergency services tackled the blaze.

The cause remains unclear. The warehouses that went up in flames had carpets and construction materials stored inside, according to local media outlets. There have been no reports about any casualties related to the incident so far.

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