Australia’s largest abattoir gutted by fire

fireAUSTRALIA’S major meat processor — with exports to over 80 countries — has been gutted by a fire causing millions of dollars of damage.

THE state’s biggest meat abattoir was ablaze on Wednesday night as firefighters battled to control the massive fire in the Murray Mallee.

Authorities were called to Thomas Foods International’s meatworks, on Murray Bridge’s the northern outskirts, amid reports of a “significant” structure fire.

About 20 firefighters are still battling a large factory fire near the intersection of Lagoon Road and Mannum Road at Murray Bridge.

The fire has been contained and salvage crews are helping the remaining crews gain access to the basement where it continues to burn.

There have been no reported injuries — one firefighter was taken to hospital as a precaution.Witnesses told The Advertiser how a “wall of flames” engulfed the facility, 76km east of Adelaide, which remained uncontrolled on Wednesday night.

More than 100 Metropolitan and Country Fire Service crews responded to the intense blaze — from as far away as Woodville, in the western suburbs — sparking the highest alarm response.

Residents were warned to stay away from the Northern Heights facility and remain indoors as the fire tore through the 8000 sqm structure amid fears the building could collapse or explode.

Workers told how the fire may have started in a lamb boning room from malfactioning machinery or a welder.

Thomas Foods is Australia’s largest family-owned food processing company and one of the state’s most successful businesses with annual revenue of more than $1 billion.

Processing lamb, beef, mutton and goat, its major clients include Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, McDonalds, IGA and Drake Supermarkets.

Company officials were unable to say on Wednesday night what impact the fire would have on the country’s meat supplies.

Founded in 1988, it employs more than 3000 people in its processing and distribution facilities in Australia and overseas — and is Murray Bridge’s biggest employer.