The drama was unfolding at a plant owned by Fortum in Hudiksvall, about 300 kilometres north of Stockholm. The plant is situated next to Sweden’s main east-coast rail line, and all traffic on the line has been stopped until further notice.
Emergency services were notified of the problem at about 13:40 on Sunday.
“There is an imminent danger that it will collapse,” said Markus Tapper of the SOS Alarm emergency call service shortly after the alert came in.
Tapper added that indications were that the damage to the chimney had been caused by the cold and by vibrations from passing trains.
Jens Bjöörn, spokesman for Fortum Värme, which operates the plant, said the chimney was a 60-metre steel-plated smoke stack containing three pipes.
“It appears that the chimney has snapped somewhere in the middle, possibly due to wind. It is the outer casing that has boken,” he said.
Bjöörn added that it can not be ruled out that the hard wind will break off the chimney.
“We are therefore taking all precautionary measures until we have complete control of the situation.”
The plant in question is a reserve facility, used when extra capacity is needed, such as during cold snaps in the winter.
“It was not in operation at this time,” said Bjöörn.
The plant was inspected last year. At the time of writing, engineers were hoping to stabilize the chimney and secure it in place.