60,000 Forced To Evacuate After Explosions Tear Through Chemical Plant
Two explosions at a chemical plant in Texas have put 60,000 people under evacuation orders.
The first blast, which blew out the windows and doors of nearby homes, injured three workers.
That explosion occurred just after 1 am local time. Officials said the blast could be felt up to 48 kilometres away, and that by sunrise, toxic plumes could be seen from far away.
The impact sent debris flying through the air as frightened homeowners scrambled for cover.
"It's like the whole house was shaken," one woman told CBS News.
"Kind of like a little mini earthquake."
Then there was a second explosion, forcing officials to issue a mandatory evacuation.
All employees have been accounted for, TPC said, confirming two employees and a contractor were injured.
KHOU reports that Mike White, the Jefferson County Emergency Management Coordinator, said there are a couple of chemicals housed at the facility, including Butadiene.
Butadiene is a colourless gas with a gasoline-like odour, used to produce synthetic rubber products like tires, plastics and other chemicals.
Long-term exposure has been associated with cardiovascular disease and cancer and can damage the nervous system.
That's why the air quality will continue to be monitored, the station reported.
The plant in Port Neches in southeast Texas, about 130 kilometres east of Houston, makes chemical and petroleum-based products.
TPC said Wednesday morning that it had no details on the cause of the explosion or the extent of damage to the plant.
Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick told Beaumont TV station KBMT the blast awakened him early Wednesday at his home, and that it initially sounded like someone firing a gun into his house.
"When I got out there and grabbed my pistol and ran to the front door, I saw that the front and back door were splintered and wood had flown everywhere ... I could see the flames from the backyard," Branick said.
White told the Beaumont Enterprise that five residents were being treated for minor injuries, mostly related to shattered glass.
White said state environmental officials are monitoring air quality but that no elevated chemical levels had been detected.
Branick told Beaumont TV station KDFM that it was a miracle that no one died.
Branick said one worker suffered burns and was taken by medical helicopter to a Houston hospital. The others had a broken wrist and a broken leg.
Texas has seen multiple petrochemical industry blazes this year, including a March fire that burned for days near Houston and another that killed a worker at a plant in nearby Crosby.