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Texas chemical plant explosion and fire kills one

03 April 2019

An explosion at the KMCO chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, killed at least one person and injured two others on April 2, according to local media. The blast started a large fire that firefighters took six hours to extinguish, and local officials imposed a shelter-in-place order for the surrounding area, which is about 35km north east of Houston.

Representative image - Shutterstock
Representative image - Shutterstock

One person was killed and two others were taken by emergency helicopter to local hospitals with injuries. Their conditions were not immediately released.

The blast shook homes in the neighbouring area and people 20 miles away reported feeling the explosion, according to local broadcasters.

According to a Sheriff’s Office tweet, a preliminary investigation indicated the fire started in a transfer line to a tank containing isobutylene. He said the blaze then spread to a storage building. The plant manufactures antifreeze products and chemicals for the oil industry.

Pilar Davis, a product manager with KMCO, said the fire initially ignited with isobutylene but was fuelled by ethanol and ethyl acrylate. All three are chemicals and solvents used to make fuel additives at the plant.

Davis declined to comment on the worker who was killed and the two who were injured, only saying they were part of KMCO’s operations department.

Workers at the plant said they were warned of a leak and were ordered to evacuate just moments before a series of explosions erupted followed by the massive blast.

KMCO has had been charged with several environmental and safety violations in the past, including one where employees made false entries in air quality test logs on chemical tanks that were known to be leaking.

The fire erupted about two weeks after a blaze at a petrochemical storage facility in Deer Park, south of Crosby. That fire, at a facility owned by Intercontinental Terminals Company, burned for days and triggered air quality warnings. Crosby is also where the Arkema chemical plant caught fire after being inundated during Hurricane Harvey in 2017, covering the area in toxic fumes.

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