A Postville, Iowa explosion and fire hit the Norplex Laminates manufacturing plant very early on Monday morning. Allamakee County Emergency Management Coordinator Chris Dahlstrom informed local media that a machine inside of the facility exploded:
“There are several large machines and the building is specially made so if something falters, it will go up through the roof and it did do that.”
Despite the design, a fire resulted from the explosion but the sprinkler system kept it from spreading. Early estimates of the cost of the damage are rough, but they could run anywhere from $5 to $7 million.
In addition, three workers were injured — one of them so critically that the unnamed employee was airlifted to the burn unit at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.
The other two victims had minor injuries. One of them was treated a local hospital and released, while the other one refused medical treatment.
Late last week, Ascension Parish, Louisiana was hit by back-to-back industrial accidents that resulted in the death of workers.
On Thursday, a large fire and explosion at Williams-Olefins in Geismar, Louisiana sent over 70 people to the hospital, in addition to killing one worker.
A smaller incident in nearby Donaldsonville killed one man instantly on Friday evening and sent seven others to the hospital. In that case, some authorities disputed the media characterization of the event as an explosion, saying that the uncontrolled release of nitrogen was more like a balloon popping or a tire leaking.
No one is disputing the extent of the Postville explosion at Industrial Laminates/Norplex Inc. The Postville Fire Department was assisted by multiple agencies including the Decorah and Luana Fire Departments in addition to the Postville Police Department and other emergency services.
The Iowa State Fire Marshal’s office is still investigating cause of the Postville explosion.
[fire image by Marcus Obal via Wikimedia Commons]