Chinese lantern sparks huge fire near Birmingham

More than 200 firefighters were on Monday battling a major blaze at a recycling plant near Birmingham after a falling Chinese lantern set 100,000 tonnes of paper and plastic alight.

Ten firefighters suffered minor injuries as they fought to put out the flames at the plant in Smethwick, just outside Britain's second city, the local fire department said.

The fire sent a massive plume of smoke rising 1,800 metres (6,000 feet) into the sky which could be seen for miles around.

"Two officers have been hospitalised and eight have been treated at the scene," a spokeswoman for the fire service told AFP.

The service added in a message on its Twitter page: "Major fire at Smethwick caused by a Chinese lantern -- make sure you use them safely."

Emergency services were called to the fire at the J & A Young plant, which is on an industrial estate, at around 11:00 pm (2200 GMT) on Sunday night.

Paper sky lanterns are increasingly popular at British celebrations, but there are growing concerns about their potential to cause fires.

The lanterns -- which are essentially small hot-air balloons -- have been banned in countries including Australia and the US states of Hawaii and Illinois.

Manufacturers say they should never be used near dry crops or within five miles of an airport.