UPDATED 10.35pm GMT, Eye Witness Report: Sixteen hours after a series of explosions ripped apart the Buncefield fuel depot outside Hemel Hempstead, the plant continues to burn in the winter darkness.

The fire is contained but a blanket of pollution is spreading across south east England.

Exhausted fire services, fighting the blaze since first light today, are reforming tonight for an assault on the inferno at dawn tomorrow which will see thousands of gallons of foam per minute hurled at the flames.

Earlier today, the east side of Hemel Hempstead lay shrouded in a choking brown fog, and the skyline resembled an erupting volcano.

The casualty count of 43 injured, two seriously, remained stable all afternoon.

In what police have described as the biggest explosion and fire of its kind since World War II, it is a miracle no one has been killed.

Numerous houses near the plant have been damaged, and as the towering smoke continues to drift south over London thick fresh filth belches into a cloudless night sky.

The fuel capacity of the depot is believed to be in the region of 60m gallons stored in at least 26 colossal tanks.

Holding primarily petrol and kerosene, highly flammable jet engine fuel, Buncefield is a major supplier of Luton and Heathrow airports.

Further explosions have not been ruled out, but they are now unlikely as emergency services fence the fire into the northern half of the plant.

The initial explosions, which were felt as far afield as Surrey and Oxfordshire, shook the entire town of Hemel between 06.03am and six-thirty, smashing windows, cracking walls and bringing people running from their homes.

Local hospitals began receiving the walking wounded before 7.00am, mostly those cut by flying glass.

Police have declared the explosions a major industrial accident, though Total Oil which operates the depot (alongside Texaco) has accounted for all its people on site.

The M1 motorway which runs close by the depot was closed both ways between junctions 6a and 12 earlier today, but it has since reopened.

This morning...

Those Hemel residents determined to go out just stand and stare. People are wandering around with cameras and phones taking pictures of nothing but a solid wall of smoke.

Some started panic buying at the petrol pumps.

My own apartment building, which lies just three miles from the Buncefield plant, shook me awake shortly after 6.00am, and my first thought was that a train had crashed near Apsley station.

Within moments, however, a colossal tower of smoke was visible from my windows over the Grand Union Canal and it was clear that disaster had struck Buncefield.

"It's a brilliant day but the sun is just like a 40 watt light bulb through the smoke," said one eye witness.

Though the fumes are not believed to be toxic, the air over the town tastes acrid and police are advising people to close doors and windows.

Luton Airport, ten miles away, remains open. Fuel supplies to both airports will not be disrupted.

A casualty information number has been set up: 0800 096 0095