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The war in the south apparently prevented a tragedy during last week's chemical plant fire on the outskirts of Ashdod. During yesterday's meeting of the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee, Ashdod fire department chief Danny Sasson said that 53 firefighters worked to contain the blaze, while a normal shift consists of only four firefighters.

The Environment Ministry reported that due to the Gaza operation, dangerous chemicals had been removed from the Agan Chemicals plant. Sasson told lawmakers that containing the fire took two hours and involved 53 firefighters, six cranes and airborne water cannons operated by the Air Force. "If such an event occurs now, I have four firefighters. I was on special preparedness because of Operation Cast Lead. There were double shifts at our fire station as well as Home Front Command firefighters on alert. Under normal circumstances, I am not sure we could have contained the fire." Sasson described fire shooting 20-meters into the sky.

The investigation into the cause of the fire is expected to take another two weeks. "We have so far heard from an electrical engineer that the cause was not an electrical failure. Arson and rocket strikes have also been ruled out," Sasson reported, however the possibility of a chemical reaction is currently being examined.

Environment Ministry official Yossi Inbar said that with the outbreak of war, the ministry insisted the quantities of chlorine and bromine at the factory be reduced to a bare minimum.

MK Ophir Pines stated that the reports of how tremendous the disaster could have been in peace time underlines the importance of tight regulation of factories that store dangerous substances.