Explosions Reported At Houston-Area Chemical Plant
Godofredo A. Vasquez—AP
Two explosions were reported early Thursday at a Houston-area chemical plant that lost power amid flooding from Harvey. A statement from the Arkema Inc. company said the Harris County Emergency Operations Center reported two explosions and black smoke coming from the plant at about 2 a.m. In a tweet, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said a deputy was taken to the hospital after inhaling fumes. Nine other deputies drove themselves to the hospital as a precaution. A tweet from the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office confirmed there had been “a series of chemical reactions” at the plant and advised people to stay away from the area. Local officials say the explosions produced no toxins, although federal authorities are describing the resulting plumes as “incredibly dangerous.” Assistant Harris County Fire Chief Bob Rayall told a news conference Thursday that the explosions emitted 30- to 40-foot (9- to 12-meter) flames and black smoke. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said no toxins were released and that there’s no danger to the community. He says sheriff’s deputies who were hospitalized suffering from irritated eyes after the blasts have all been released. But at a news conference in Washington, D.C. Thursday, FEMA administrator Brock Long said he considers plumes from the explosion “incredibly dangerous.” Gonzalez says he expects the fire to burn itself out. A spokeswoman for the plant in Crosby, Texas, said late Wednesday that the flooded facility had lost power and backup generators amid Harvey flooding, leaving it without refrigeration for chemicals that become volatile as the temperature rises. The plant is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of Houston. “The fire will happen. It will resemble a gasoline fire. It will be explosive and intense in nature,” spokeswoman Janet Smith told The Associated Press late Wednesday.