BEIJING (AP) — Explosions ripped through a chemical plant Tuesday in southwest China killing at least 16 people and forcing the evacuation of thousands of nearby residents.

Six people were still missing today and another 57 people were injured, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The first explosion occurred at about 6 a.m. Tuesday in Yizhou city in Guangxi province and the blasts continued until 1 p.m. Fire spread over a nearly 108,000-square-foot area, Xinhua said, citing an unidentified firefighter in the rescue operation.

The government evacuated 11,500 residents in case of further blasts and chemical leaks.

Poisonous gases, mainly sulfurated hydrogen and carbon monoxide, were still coming from the site, Ge Xianmin, Guangxi's toxic substances emergency center director, was quoted as saying.

Regional work safety authorities were investigating the cause of the blasts.