BELLE CHASSE, La. (AP) — Plaquemines Parish officials said a fire started by a lightning strike broke out at a chemical facility Friday and covered parts of Belle Chasse in smoke, prompting the evacuation of several government buildings and forcing residents to stay indoors to avoid inhaling pollutants.

The fire broke out at a warehouse of the Sun Drilling plant near downtown Belle Chasse at about 1:30 p.m. and was largely under control shortly after 3 p.m., parish officials said.

Parish President Billy Nungesser said there were no early reports of injuries. Nungesser said clouds of smoke crossed over parts of Belle Chasse.

While benzene is used by Sun Drilling in some of its products, Nungesser said the smoke and pollutants were not considered a health threat.

"It burns your eyes a little bit," he told WWL-TV. "It makes it hard to breathe a bit."

Several government buildings, including the district attorney's office, the sheriff's office and the council building, were evacuated. School children at a nearby primary school were sheltered in place until it was deemed safe to leave, officials said.

Residents were told to turn off their air conditioning and to stay indoors while the fire blazed. Parts of Highway 23 were temporarily closed as was a ferry across the Mississippi River at Belle Chasse.

Sun Drilling officials did not immediately comment.


Information from: WWL-TV,