French recycling plant on fire hosting 900 tonnes of lithium batteries By Reuters

PARIS (Reuters) – About 900 tonnes of lithium batteries caught fire at a battery recycling plant in southern France, authorities said on Sunday, sending a cloud of thick black smoke into the sky above the site.

The fire broke out on Saturday at a warehouse owned by French recycling group SNAM in Viviez, north of Toulouse, city councilor Pascal Mazet said in a statement on X.

Lithium batteries are vital in electrical devices, from phones to electric cars, but they contain combustible materials which, combined with the energy they store, can make them vulnerable to fire when exposed to heat – a potential danger given the toxic materials in their combustion can emit.

In January 2023, a large fire broke out in a Normandy warehouse where car parts and thousands of lithium batteries were stored and was put out without causing any casualties. Fire officials said there were no indications of the release of dangerous air pollution.

French media showed thick smoke at the Viviez site and Le Monde newspaper reported that up to 70 firefighters were struggling to bring the fire under control.

Charles Giusti, a local official in the Aveyron prefecture that includes Viviez, told BFM television that there was no danger to people living nearby.

The prefecture said in an overnight statement that while the fire was under control, it was burning slowly and was expected to burn for several hours.

SNAM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A safety note for the site warns that, in the event of a large fire, the products present could cause the emission of cadmium through the fumes.

Cadmium is highly toxic and dangerous for the environment, but the note states that, considering the factory environment and the behavior of the toxic fumes, they should not pose an immediate health risk to residents.

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