Two explosions rock flooded chemical plant in Texas

While local authorities assured the smoke presented “no danger to the community at all,” the head of the U.S. FEMA described the plume of smoke as “incredibly dangerous”
Photo: AFP
Crosby, Texas
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Two explosions rocked a flood-crippled chemical plant near Houston early Thursday as a result of an outage adding a new hazard to Hurricane Harvey's aftermath. While local authorities assured the smoke presented “no danger to the community at all,” the head of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), described the plume of smoke as “incredibly dangerous.”

Arkema Inc. said in a statement on its website that the Harris County Emergency Operations Center reported two explosions and black smoke coming from the plant in Crosby, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) northeast of Houston, at about 2 a.m.

At a news conference, Assistant Harris County Fire Chief, Bob Rayall, said that different grades of organic peroxides in a semi-trailer caught fire not long after midnight. The fire emitted 9 to 12 meter (30 to 40 foot) flames and black smoke.

Rayall did not refer to any blasts, but Harris County Fire Marshal spokeswoman, Rachel Moreno, said there had been “two small explosions.”

Harris County Sheriff, Ed Gonzalez, said that some deputies suffered irritated eyes from the smoke but insisted that the smoke was not dangerous. “It is not anything that we feel is a danger to the community at all,” he assured.

In contrast, FEMA administrator, Brock Long, told reporters at a news conference in Washington that “by all means, the plume is incredibly dangerous.”

On Wednesday, a plant spokeswoman said that the flooded facility had lost power and backup generators due to the flooding, leaving it without refrigeration for chemicals that become volatile as the temperature rises.

Gonzalez said the fire would burn itself out. Rayall said the fire service was not monitoring the fire—“that is the industry’s responsibility”—and that the company hired a contractor to do aerial monitoring of the smoke to see in which direction it was going.

An AP photographer at a roadblock about 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the scene could see no sign of a blaze in the direction of the chemical plant as the sun rose Thursday morning.


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