Tokyo: At least six people were today rushed to hospital after an explosion at a steel plant in central Japan, media reported.

Television pictures showed clouds of black smoke billowing from the Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal facility in Tokai, with one broadcaster reporting 12 people had been hurt in the blast.

A spokesman at the Aichi prefectural police said the fire department had been alerted to a problem at the plant at 12:46 pm (0346 GMT).

“A fire broke out although we still don’t know if there was an explosion yet. Several people seem to be injured,” he said.

The apparent explosion came after a fire at the factory earlier this year.

No one was hurt in that incident at the plant where 3,000 employees were engaged in producing steel sheets and pipes.

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