Blasts, chemical reactions rock chemical plant in Texas as Harvey flooding persists
A flooded chemical plant near Houston exploded twice early Thursday, sending a plume of smoke into the air and triggering a fire that the firm plans to let “burn itself out.”
Flames shot up to 12m high, according to local officials.
Arkema Group, one of the world’s largest chemical companies, had said in a statement on its website that the Harris County Emergency Operations Center reported the explosions and black smoke coming from the plant at about 2 a.m.
Explosions and Smoke Reported at our Arkema Inc. Crosby Plant https://t.co/j2K6RYwMZ8
— ARKEMA (@Arkema_group) August 31, 2017
The plant makes organic peroxides used in the production of plastic resins, polystyrene, paints and other products.
The French chemicals group that owns the plant confirmed the incident earlier and added there was a risk of further explosions.
“We want local residents to be aware that the product is stored in multiple locations on the site, and a threat of additional explosion remains,” Arkema said in a statement.
“Please do not return to the area within the evacuation zone until local emergency response authorities announce it is safe to do so,” it added.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office said on its Twitter feed that a sheriff’s deputy had been taken to the hospital and nine others drove themselves to the hospital as a precaution.
One deputy taken to hospital after inhaling fumes from Archem plant in Crosby. 9 others drove themselves to hospital as precaution.
— HCSOTexas (@HCSOTexas) August 31, 2017
Local resident John Villarreal, 45, told news agency AFP he saw “a lot of smoke, and you could see the flames in the smoke.” “We could hear a few pops,” he said. “I would call it like an aerosol can in a fire type deal.”
“Right now, the question is whether or not we can actually get in and assess the full scale of the impact from an environmental standpoint to an infrastructure stand point,” Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long said at a news briefing.
“By all means, yes, the plume is incredibly dangerous.”
Despite the plant managers saying there were two explosions, local authorities insisted it was just a “chemical reaction.”
There was a chemical reaction, not an explosion at Arkema plant in Crosby. There has been different grades of organic peroxide released. — Ed Gonzalez (@SheriffEd_HCSO) August 31, 2017
“It wasn’t an explosion. I want to be very clear. It was not an explosion,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said of the incident, which he said was a result of containers “basically popping.”
As for the gas and smoke rising from the plant, Gonzalez said, “It is not anything toxic, it’s not anything we feel is a danger to the community at all.”