Multiple explosions were reported from a chemical factory in the town of Crosby that was damaged by the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. According to The New York Times, two explosions were heard from the Arkema chemical plant, located around 30 miles northeast of Houston at around 2:00 a.m., local time. The reports of the explosions were confirmed on the website of the owners of the plant. While no casualties were reported after the explosions, one Harris County deputy was hospitalized after he inhaled fumes from the plant. Later, they confirmed that the deputy had inhaled a non-toxic irritant.
In a statement issued by Arkema on their website, company officials have revealed that they were notified of the explosions by he Harris County Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Black smoke was also reported from the plant. An evacuation zone spanning 1.5 miles from the plant was already established as officials had anticipated these explosions in advance. According to officials, while the chemical plant had a contingency plan in place before Hurricane Harvey hit, they had grossly underestimated the amount of flooding the hurricane would have caused. The unprecedented flooding overwhelmed the chemical plants’ primary and two secondary emergency power sources for back up. This meant several chemicals stored inside the plant that required refrigeration were left at room temperature.
These chemicals (organic peroxides) tend to burn if not stored at low temperatures. In the statement, the company also adds that the best course of action right now is to let the fire burn itself out. They have also warned local residents about the possibility of several more explosions since these chemicals were stored at multiple locations on the site. They have warned residents to not return to the area until emergency services announce it is safe to do so.
Before the hurricane hit, Arkema evacuated most of their employees from the factory and left a crew of 11 to manage the plant. However, this crew of 11 was also evacuated from the factory after the threat of the explosions loomed large. It remains unclear as to how long it would take for the fire to completely burn itself out.
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