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Three injured in significant Texas chemical plant explosion

27 November 2019

Some homes and businesses were evacuated and a shelter-in-place order was issued after a large early morning explosion on November 27 rocked an East Texas chemical plant in Port Neches near the Louisiana border.

Representative image: Shutterstock
Representative image: Shutterstock

Officials at the TPC Group plant in Port Neches said three employees were injured but did not provide any further details. All employees were accounted for, the company said.

The powerful blast blew out the windows of homes in neighbourhoods miles away and sent a chemical plume over the area.

"There's extensive damage throughout the City," Port Neches Police Department said in a statement. "Please stay off the roads anywhere near the refineries. Obey all the barricades that are in place. We are doing everything we can to keep everyone safe and informed."

The fire is burning a chemical called butadiene, police said. A colourless gas, butadiene is considered a health hazard, according to the US National Library of Medicine.

"TPC Group has activated its Emergency Response Plan and requested assistance from Port Neches Fire Department and Huntsman," the company said in a statement. "The event is ongoing but will be brought under control as quickly and safely as possible."

The Nederland Fire Department in Jefferson County called for evacuations within a half mile of the plant. In neighboring Orange County, County Judge John Gothia issued a shelter-in-place order for some areas downwind of the plant due to the chemical plume. Gothia urged residents to stay inside, close windows and turn off fans and air conditioning units.

TPC Group, headquartered in Houston, makes chemicals used in synthetic rubber, fuels, lubricant additives, plastics and surfactants. The company has manufacturing facilities in the industrial corridor adjacent to the Houston Ship Channel and Port Neches, Texas, and operates a product terminal in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Port Neches is about 100 miles east of Houston.

"Right now our focus is on protecting the safety of responders and the public and minimising any impact to the environment," the company said.

Update: Later on November 27, continuing explosions and fires on the site caused authorities to extend the evacuation zone to cover a radius of four miles from the plant, including the towns of Port Neches, Groves, parts of Nederland, and Port Arthur. An estimated 60,000 people have been asked to leave their homes.

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