"We have fire and structural damage indicative of an explosion," Steve Lenzi, spokesman for the Waukegan Fire Department said at the scene, explaining that "there is very heavy damage.” Lenzi further stated that officials were consulting with the manager of the plant to determine the number of employees at the location at the time of the explosion.
The AB Speciality Silicone plant blast took place at approximately 75 kilometers north of the U.S. city at about 9:00 p.m. local time.
Fire, police, and paramedic personnel are working diligently at this scene. Again, please stay out of the area and let the first-responders work. Additional information regarding the explosion and fire will be released by Waukegan officials as the details become available. pic.twitter.com/RtA7MjTVxt
"It was leveled," Megan Hener, a resident who leaves near the site of the blast, recounted to the Chicago Tribune newspaper about the earth-shaking explosion. "It shook our house and shook my insides."
Another witness told WLS-TV that she "heard a large boom" and saw "debris and sparks flying everywhere," adding that a building "engulfed in flames" before a second "large boom" was heard.
We are aware of a very loud explosion sound and ground shaking in the Gurnee area. We are working to determine the cause. If you have first-hand knowledge of the incident please call your local law-enforcement. If you’re not in danger and don’t have info, please don’t call 911.
According to local media reports, there were no fatalities and emergency response personnel urged members of the public to avoid the area.
Illinois state Rep. Joyce Mason, posted on Facebook, that employees of an unspecified business were inside the building at the time of the explosion, citing information from Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham.
Mason added that first-responders "expect to be working most of the night" due to the magnitude of the explosion and subsequent fire.