A major fire has devastated a Thai Union-owned seafood processing plant in northeastern New Brunswick, Canada, jeopardizing hundreds of jobs, reports CBC News.

A plume of thick black smoke could be seen coming from Les Pêcheries de Chez Nous facility in Val-Comeau, a small coastal community in the regional municipality of Tracadie on Thursday.

Realdine Robichaud, municipal councillor for Val-Comeau, said it's a major blow to the community. The company employs almost 300 people.

“With the virus, they were scared to go, but they had courage and they went,” Robichaud said.

Val-Comeau is a community of 800 people that relies on the fishing industry — an industry already reeling after the COVID-19 pandemic cratered the market.

Rejean Comeau, a local fisherman who sits on the wharf association, said there's a glut of product and losing a processor will only exacerbate the issue.

“The market is not there this year and it's not easy for the fishermen to sell our lobster,” said Comeau. "That's a big problem right now."

"The factory is almost all on the ground," he said. "Eighty percent of the factory burned down, a complete loss, both in terms of material and jobs."

Emmaneul Moyen, a representative of the Maritime Fishermen's Union, told Radio-Canada about 100 local fishermen sell their catch to the plant, which had been operating at full capacity.

Les Pêcheries de Chez Nous opened in 2000, and the company was purchased by Thai Union Canada in 2016.

It received CAD 250,000 (€163,606/$178,468) from the New Brunswick government in 2017 to help fund an expansion of its operations.

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