FREIRINA, Chile – Health concerns prompted the government of Chile to close the country’s largest pork processing plant and evacuate more than 500,000 pigs, according to news reports.

A spokesman for Agrosuper, which owns the plant, said the pigs would be slaughtered and buried in specially prepared pits. The company said it would require 50,000 trucks to move the pigs, and no one was willing to take them.

The trouble began a week ago when residents of the town of Freirina blocked access roads to the plant in protest of the foul smells emanating from the slaughterhouse. The protests turned violent, according to news reports, and hundreds of workers fled. Pigs started dying from starvation and dehydration after going without food and water for five days.

The Chilean government declared a health emergency and ordered the plant closed indefinitely on fears waste could overflow into drinking water. The government also gave Agrosuper six months to evacuate the pigs.

Agrosuper blamed the foul odor on ventilation problems and the failure of micro-organisms to eliminate the waste.