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Evacuation extended for Louisiana town near explosives cache

By Jim Forsyth

(Reuters) - Some 800 residents of the town of Doyline, Louisiana, will be able to return to their homes full time on Thursday or Friday after the state clears out six tons of explosives that had been improperly stored at a nearby company.

"We are progressing, working very hard to get this situation improved for them," State Police Captain Doug Cain said.

Police have said the people were evacuated from the northwestern Louisiana town last Friday after a State Police trooper found a material called M6 propellant during an inspection of an industrial site used by Explo Systems Inc. The smokeless substance is used for large ammunitions.

The site is at the former Camp Minden Army Ammunition Plant.

According to its website, Explo Systems demilitarizes outdated weapons and recovers the explosive material and propellant so it can be reused.

The major danger is during daylight hours when the materials are being moved, Cain said. People are allowed to return to their residences after dark and some are sleeping in their homes, though Cain said they were being urged not to do so.

Cain said state police hazardous materials experts were implementing a three-part plan to move the explosives.

"First, we are shipping out the propellant to customers who have already purchased it," Cain said. "Then we are moving improperly stored product into the magazine areas left empty by those shipments. Then we will segregate the dangerous product into a smaller area where it will not be a threat to the nearby residents."

According to police, the material had been stored around the sprawling site instead of being kept in blast-proof magazines. Police said that some of the explosives were in boxes in the woods. Cain said that Explo employees had been cooperative in implementing the cleanup.

A woman who answered the phone at Explo on Tuesday said the company had no comment.

No criminal charges have been filed, but Cain said police have a criminal investigation under way that will likely center on improper storage of hazardous materials.

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan)

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