60,000 people ordered to flee as another explosion rocks burning Texas chemical plant (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)
27 Nov, 2019 21:44 / Updated 3 hours ago
Flames are seen after a massive explosion at a Texas petrochemical plant in Port Neches © Reuters / Erwin Seba / KTRK via APTN
Tens of thousands of residents in Texas have been ordered to flee as firefighters struggle to contain a massive blaze at a chemical plant, following a series of explosions at the facility.
All residents within four miles of the conflagration at the TPC Group chemical plant in Port Neches, which erupted early on Wednesday, were told to evacuate in an order from Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick.
Communities affected by the mandatory evacuation order include Port Neches, Nederland, Groves, Beauxart Gardens, Central Gardens as well as portions of Port Arthur.
At least one powerful secondary explosion rocked the plant on Wednesday afternoon amid ongoing efforts to extinguish the fire, which has been burning for over 12 hours already. Collapsing flaring stacks at the facility pose risk of additional explosions, according to Jefferson County Emergency Management Coordinator Michael White.
Two employees and one contractor were injured in the initial blast, but all three have been released from hospital after treatment. There were up to 27 workers on site at the time of the incident, according to local officials.
A column of black smoke could be seen from 50 miles away by the late afternoon. Residents were advised to avoid black soot emanating from the fire that could be seen floating in the air in areas around the plant.
“The black stuff floating, don’t touch it,” said Troy Monk, who is the director of health safety and security for the TPC Group, in the hours after the initial explosion. Local officials said they would continue to monitor the air quality in the area, and have set up a shelter.
The initial explosion occurred in an area of the chemical facility that produces or processes butadiene, a colorless gas with a gasoline-like odor used to manufacture synthetic rubbers and plastics, among other things. Long-term exposure to the gas has been linked to cancer and heart disease. Firefighters are expected to let the fire at the butadiene unit burn out, focusing instead on preventing the blaze from spreading, said Peyton Keith, a TPC spokesman. He could not provide an estimated time for how long it might take to extinguish the flames.