UPDATE 1-Fire damages Brazil's Usiminas mill
SAO PAULO May 19 (Reuters) - A fire damaged a chimney at a Usiminas mill outside Sao Paulo, Brazil's top producer of flat steel products said on Saturday, but production at the site has been resumed.
Usiminas said the fire broke out on Friday night at its 4.5 million tonne steel plant in Cubatao, 35 miles (57 km) southeast of Sao Paulo. The causes are still unknown.
"All emergency procedures were immediately taken which avoided injuries," the company said in a press release.
"Furnace 2 is back in operation and the affected area has been preserved to investigate the causes of the incident."
Footage broadcasted by Globo News TV showed flames engulfing one tower at the Cubatao mill as fire trucks rushed in to the scene.
An official with the fire department in Cubatao told Reuters the furnace's chimney had been destroyed by the fire, which broke out at around 9 p.m. on Friday and was put out only seven hours later.
The fire may have started at the chimney's thermal insulation, the official said asking not to be named.
Usiminas has been struggling with rising costs of raw materials, lack of energy and iron ore self-sufficiency as well as competition from cheaper flat steel imports over the past three years.
The company posted its first loss in two years in the first quarter as expenses surged and revenue tumbled amid the most challenging environment for mills in years.
Italian-Argentine steelmaking group Ternium bought a controlling stake in the company last year and has promised to revamp operations at Brazil's largest maker of steel products for the automobile industry.