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Gas leak at Intel Arizona plant sickens 43, sends 11 to hospital

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PHOENIX (Reuters) - A gas leak at Intel Corp's second-biggest manufacturing plant, located in Chandler, Arizona, sickened up to 43 people, including 11 who were taken to a local hospital, company and local fire officials said on Saturday.

One of the buildings at the sprawling processing plant was evacuated after the leak of gas, which was identified as nitrogen triflouride, said Battalion Chief Tom Dwiggins, a fire department spokesman.

A spokesman for Intel, the world's biggest chipmaker, said the source of the leak was a single manufacturing tool in one of the company's silicon wafer fabrication facilities.

Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said the tool that caused the leak has been taken offline and operations at the plant have resumed as the company tries to determine the cause of the malfunction.

"There is no ongoing danger," Mulloy said.

Dwiggins said there was no threat to nearby neighborhoods.

"They monitored the air inside and outside the structure and in all cases the air was clean," he said.

The plant manufactures silicon wafers used to make semiconductors for computers. The components are made on 12 inch silicon wafers that are later sliced into individual components, according to the spokesman. Each component can contain more than a billion transistors.

Mulloy and Dwiggins said 43 people were treated at the scene, and as many as 11 individuals were taken to a hospital for further evaluation.

Those transported to hospitals were suffering from conditions including difficulty breathing, nausea and skin and eye irritation, said Dwiggins.

About 75 firefighters were called to the campus early on Saturday after a worker complained of difficulty breathing and then others began experiencing symptoms, Dwiggins said.

The plant in Chandler employs about 11,000 people. Intel operates two high-volume semiconductor manufacturing facilities at the site and is building a third facility, which is scheduled to open this year, according to the company website.

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago and David Schwartz in Phoenix; Editing by Greg McCune and Vicki Allen)

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