Massive explosion rips through Texas chemical plant, injures three, causes extensive damage in Texas, US
A series of explosions, two major, rocked a chemical plant early on Wednesday, 27 November 2019, in Texas, causing extensive damage across the small city of Port Neches and leaving at least three employees injured. A series of smaller explosions occurred throughout the day and a larger one in the afternoon launched a tower into the air with balls of fire.
A mandatory evacuation was issued for areas within a 4-mile radius of plant because of the potential for more explosions.
Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick, who issued the mandatory evacuation, said the initial explosion knocked out power to the plant. Authorities have no "ability to check the volume of available chemicals" and "no way to calculate burn rates" going forward, he said. At least three tanks were on fire and emergency response teams were at the plant site working to prevent the blaze from spreading, Troy Monk, director of health safety and security for TPC Group, which operates the Port Neches manufacturing plant about 90 miles east of Houston, reported. Monk said crews are trying to keep surrounding storage tanks cool. Port Neches fire captain, Tyler Herbert, said on Thursday morning that the fire was still burning and that a mandatory evacuation order covering a four-mile radius around the plant remains in effect, which affected 50 000 people.
“There’s extensive damage throughout the City,” Port Neches Police Department said in a statement. “Please stay off the roads anywhere near the refineries. Obey all the barricades that are in place. We are doing everything we can to keep everyone safe and informed.”
Personnel have been evacuated from the plant, which makes products for chemical and petroleum companies, said TPC Group, which runs the Port Neches Operations site. About 13 000 people live in Port Neches and some said their home windows were blown out by the blast.
The fire is burning a chemical called butadiene, police said. A colourless gas, butadiene is considered a health hazard, according to the US National Library of Medicine. It is made from processing petroleum and is used to make synthetic rubber and plastics.
“Our focus is on protecting the safety of responders and the public and minimising any impact to the environment,” TPC Group said.
Two TPC employees and one contractor were injured and were transported to a nearby hospital and to one in Houston, according to the company.
Jefferson County Sheriff Zena Stephens said the evacuation order and a 22h00 curfew order remain in effect. Officials don’t know when people will be able to return to their homes.
“It’s Thanksgiving, a lot of people are displaced, they can’t go home,” Stephens told TV station KFDM Thursday, explaining the danger of further explosions and fire rather than air quality problems is the reason the evacuation order remains in place.
The Wednesday blasts, 13 hours apart, blew out windows and doors of nearby homes and prompted a mandatory evacuation of a four-mile (seven-kilometre) radius from the plant in Port Neches in Southeast Texas, about 80 miles (129 kilometres) east of Houston.
The explosion is the latest in a string of industrial incidents in the region. The Houston area saw three fires at chemical facilities in a month-long span in March and April, including an explosion at the KMCO plant in Crosby that killed a worker, as Houston Public Media's Florian Martin reported. In July, more than 30 people were treated for minor injuries after a fire at an Exxon Mobil refinery in Baytown.
Source: CNN, NPR