An explosion at a Total petrochemicals plant in eastern France has killed two people, injured five and left others buried under rubble.

Several fire engines and 50 firefighters were sent to the plant in Carling after the blast in a steam-cracking furnace, which damaged equipment but did not cause a fire.

A Total spokesman said the explosion happened at about 2.15pm Irish time.

He said: 'The steam cracker had been halted due to recent bad weather. One of its components blew up when it was restarted.

'The six injured people have been evacuated to a local hospital.'

The Carling plant produces a range of petrochemicals including ethylene, propylene, methane and styrene.

Total said the plant also produces plastic consumer products such polyethylene and polystyrene.