(From AFP)

A huge fire broke out Monday at a steel pipe plant near Tokyo’s Haneda airport, a fire department official said, as television images showed plumes of thick black smoke and flames shooting up into the air.

Smoke rises from a steel plant beside a river in Kawasaki near Tokyo’s Haneda airport Monday

The blaze came just hours after a blast ripped through a warehouse at a U.S. military post near Tokyo, sending sparks into the sky and triggering a blaze that burned through the night, although there were no reports of injuries.

Local police declined to speculate on whether there was any link between the two incidents.

“We do not know any details at this point,” a police spokesman said on the question of any connection.

The site near the busy international airport is owned by a unit of giant steelmaker Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal, which declined to make an immediate comment.

The vast steel pipe-making facility, which spans 20,800 square meters, operates a pair of manufacturing lines, about one kilometer from Haneda.

“A fire broke out from a two-meter cooling tower,” the fire official said without elaborating.

Aerial television footage showed the blaze stretched across a long, narrow warehouse after it was first reported at 11:36 a.m.

It spread to a next door cosmetics factory owned by Kao Corp. Public broadcaster NHK said about 600 of its employees had been evacuated from the site.

There was no immediate word about employees working at the Nippon Steel factory or if anyone at either site was injured.

Japan Airlines and rival All Nippon Airways said none of its flights had so far been affected.

Last year, at least 15 people were injured after an explosion at a Nippon Steel plant in central Japan.

It followed a series of accidents at the site, which prompted the mayor of Tokai, a city of about 100,000 people, to formally ask the steelmaker to draw up a plan to deal with any safety problems.

Blast at warehouse near US base

Earlier in the day, an explosion rocked a warehouse at a U.S. military base in Sagamihara, near Tokyo on Monday, but U.S. forces said the building was not for storing hazardous materials and that there were no indications of injuries, Reuters reports.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga called the incident “extremely regrettable” and said the fire at the warehouse had all but been put out.

The incident comes when Tokyo is at loggerheads with the southern Japanese local government of Okinawa over contentious plans to relocate the U.S. Marines’ Futenma air base to a less populous part of the island, and could further stir safety concerns among those who live near U.S. bases.

The local fire department said it received a call just after midnight of an explosion at a U.S. Army depot where it said “dangerous material” is stored and sent fire-fighters.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known, the fire department said.

In Washington, U.S. Navy Commander Bill Urban said the blast was at a building at the U.S. Army Sagami General Depot in Sagamihara, about 25 miles (40 km) southwest of Tokyo.

“There are no reports of injury,” Urban said in an emailed statement.

Inside the storage building, about the size of a large residence, were canisters of compressed gasses such as nitrogen and oxygen, a statement from the U.S. Army said.

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