French firefighters on Friday continued to tackle the remnants of a blaze at grain silos in the Atlantic port of La Rochelle, but the site's operator expected little disruption to loading at one of France's biggest grain export terminals.
The spectacular fire started on Thursday morning on a conveyor belt on top of the towering silos operated by SICA Atlantique, with some 120 firefighters intervening to bring the blaze under control.
Staff from SICA Atlantique and neighbouring companies in the terminal were evacuated and no injuries were reported.
Emergency services were continuing efforts on Friday to cool the silo roofing and prevent further fire outbreaks or damage to grain stored inside the silos, a spokesperson for the prefecture added.
Removing grain from affected silos was one option but this had not yet been decided pending the ongoing fire response, the spokesperson added.
SICA Atlantique said in a statement that its capacity to receive and load grain would not be affected.
A company representative added that SICA aimed to resume operations in time for a next scheduled ship loading on Wednesday, with only a small part of the complex damaged by the fire.
Around 60,000 metric tons of cereal, mostly wheat, where currently stored in the silo complex by SICA Atlantique, which handles nearly 3 million tons annually, the representative said.
France is the European Union's biggest grain producer and the cereal terminal at La Rochelle, known as La Pallice, is an important export outlet as it handles larger panamax vessels.
The port has loaded a large amount of barley for China this summer as the harvest has arrived, though the current loading schedule was light, according to port data compiled by Refinitiv.
(Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Sharon Singleton)