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US chemical plant explosion injures one

14 November 2023

An explosion at a chemical plant in the city of Shepherd in rural Texas injured one worker and sent a significant plume of black smoke across nearby residential areas on 8 November. A shelter in place order that lasted for several hours was issued to residents within a one-mile radius around the facility operated by chemical blending and recycling specialist Sound Resource Solutions.

Representative image: Shutterstock
Representative image: Shutterstock

According to officials, emergency services were called to the site in Shepherd, around 60 miles (100km) northeast of Houston, at around 08:00 local time following reports of a large explosion. One employee was treated at the scene for minor burn injuries before being transported to hospital. Firefighters began to tackle a fire that had broken out and managed to contain it after several hours. It was reported that 19 employees had been on the site at the time of the incident, however all managed to evacuate the plant.

Police said an initial investigation suggested the blast happened after an employee discovered a leaking chemical container. The worker attempted to use a forklift truck to lift the container, however the chemicals ignited and caused the explosion. It is believed that diesel and turpentine were possibly involved in the incident. Police added that a thorough investigation would be carried out to determine the exact details.

The Sound Resource Solutions site produces glue and paint remover and handles several types of chemicals. Due to the size of the blaze that erupted following the blast, officials were unable to determine the toxicity of the smoke which was blowing away from the site towards residential areas. A precautionary shelter in place order was therefore issued for several hours.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality later said that it would continue to monitor the air through the night into 9 November before working with Sound Resource Solutions to clean up the site. A local school with 31 children inside was one of several nearby buildings which was safely evacuated during the fire. The local US Highway 59 was also closed in both directions while firefighters tackled the blaze.

Sound Resource Solutions said it would work with authorities to determine the exact cause of the incident and would cooperate in any investigations.

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