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Explosives in Louisiana prompt town evacuation, criminal probe

(Reuters) - A Louisiana company is being investigated after the discovery of about 6 million pounds of improperly stored explosive material raised safety concerns and prompted the evacuation of a nearby town, police said on Monday.

A Louisiana State Police trooper found the large amount of M6 propellant, a smokeless material used for large ammunitions, during an inspection of Explo Systems Inc last week, said Captain Doug Cain.

The state police spokesman said the material was supposed to be stored in certified explosives magazines but was instead scattered around the company's property located at Camp Minden, which is the site of a former U.S. Army ammunition plant in northwest Louisiana.

"It was in boxes sitting on pallets. It was in sheds. It was in warehouses," Cain said. "It was out in an open area. Hundreds and hundreds of boxes were lying in the woods."

"What we thought was a million pounds has turned out to be 6 million pounds of improperly stored propellant," he said.

The small town of Doyline was evacuated on Friday ahead of police efforts over the weekend to get the explosive material either safely stored or shipped to customers if it was commercial ready and properly packaged, Cain said.

Those efforts continued on Monday. Schools in Doyline were closed, and Cain said state police and the local sheriff would decide later in the day how long to keep the evacuation in place.

"It's possible it may be extended into tomorrow," he said.

Cain said police have launched administrative and criminal investigations.

A woman who answered the phone at Explo Systems on Monday said no one was available to speak about the investigation. A message left at the company was not immediately returned.

Explo Systems has operated for seven years and is veteran-owned, according to its website. The company recovers explosives and propellants from munitions, according to news reports.

State police were conducting the inspection last week as part of an investigation into an explosion of one of the company's magazines in October, Cain said.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins)

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