I. Schumann & Co., metals plant, Bedford
© REUTERSFirefighters begin to pack up gear at the I. Schumann & Co. metals plant after an explosion at the factory in Bedford, Ohio
At least one person was killed and 13 others injured in an explosion at a metals plant in Ohio that sent molten metal and debris raining down on nearby buildings.

The blast occurred around 2pm Monday at the I Schumann & Co manufacturing plant in the city of Bedford, near Cleveland, creating a towering pillar of smoke that brought fire engines racing from across the state.

Brian DiRocco, the fire chief for the nearby city of Oakwood, said most of the people hurt were "walking wounded" but that at least one was in critical condition.

"I'm sure there's a lot of people that work here that were in shock," Mr DiRocco added.

One person, a 46-year-old man, died as a result of the explosion.

The explosion comes just over two weeks since a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in another Ohio city, East Palestine, forcing residents to evacuate and sparking escalating fears over the safety of local water supplies.

A spokesperson for I Schumann said: "An explosion of unknown origin struck our Bedford, Ohio facility today resulting in injuries to employees and significant damage to the facility.

"Our efforts now are focused on supporting the first responders who came on scene quickly to help our employees. The safety and health of our employees is our top priority and we commit to ensuring they receive the medical care they need.

"We will work alongside investigators in their search for answers as part of our commitment to Northeast Ohio, where we have been operating for more than 100 years."

The plant in Bedford sorts through and melts down scrap metal to produce ingots and pellets of copper, brass, tin, and various other metals and alloys.

Matthew Wiggins, a neighbouring business owner, told Ohio broadcaster WOIO that he heard a large explosion immediately followed by what sounded like "large amounts of debris" hitting his roof.

"Things were falling off the walls, falling off shelves. We went out front and there was like smoldering rocks and molten metal in the yard. Tons and tons of smoke. Fire billowing out of the building across the street," he said.

Another witness, Joe Sarconi, told News 5 Cleveland he was eating lunch in his car across the street, in his regular parking space of 20 years, when he saw the brick wall surrounding the plant blow down and a metal beam blast fly across the road.

"I'm finishing my pork chop from Tasty Take-Outs, like I usually do... next thing you know, boom!" said Mr Sarconi. "Ridiculous. Ridiculous! I don't know how nothing hit me - nothing except a little bit of shrapnel on top of the hood... exciting, but horrible."

Nearby cars and buildings were pelted with bricks, while the ground shook with the force of the explosion. Some vehicles near Mr Sarconi were damaged more seriously.

Mr DiRocco, the fire chief, said he had previously inspected the metals plant before and found it generally safe, except for the fact that it was a foundtry. "You are dealing with molten metal, so there's always an inherent danger," he told reporters.