Flooded Texas chemical plant explodes twice - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Flooded Texas chemical plant explodes twice

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A flooded chemical plant near Houston exploded twice early Thursday, sending a plume of smoke into the air and triggering a fire that the firm plans to let "burn itself out."

Arkema Group, which is one of the world's largest chemical companies, had warned Wednesday that the plant would catch fire and explode at some point — adding there was nothing that could be done about it.

The plant in Crosby, Texas — about 20 miles northeast of Houston — was inundated by more than 40 inches of rain by Hurricane Harvey and has been without electricity since Sunday.

In a statement issued early Thursday, the France-based company confirmed they had been notified by authorities of the blasts at around 2 a.m. local time (3 a.m. ET).

"We want local residents to be aware that product is stored in multiple locations on the site, and a threat of additional explosion remains," the statement said. "We have been working closely with public officials to manage the implications of this situation."

It added: "As agreed with public officials, the best course of action is to let the fire burn itself out."

In a statement issued early Thursday, the France-based company confirmed they had been notified by authorities of the blasts at around 2 a.m. local time (3 a.m. ET).

"We want local residents to be aware that product is stored in multiple locations on the site, and a threat of additional explosion remains," the statement said. "We have been working closely with public officials to manage the implications of this situation."

It added: "As agreed with public officials, the best course of action is to let the fire burn itself out."

All residents within 1½ miles of the plant were evacuated on Tuesday, and the Federal Aviation Administration closed air traffic near the site late Wednesday. The National Guard was on the scene, and the Department of Homeland Security set up a command post near the site.

"We have an unprecedented 6 feet of water throughout the plant. We've lost primary power and two sources of emergency backup power. And as a result, critical refrigeration needed for our materials on site is lost," Richard Rowe, chief executive of the company's North America operations, said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters before the blasts.

He predicted an "intense fire," adding: "The high water that exists on site and the lack of power leave us with no way to prevent it.”

The incident raises memories of the devastating explosion at a West Fertilizer Co. facility in West, Texas, in April 2013. Fifteen people were killed, and more than 160 others were injured.

Speaking before the explosions, Rowe said the fire at the chemical plant wasn't expected to "pose any long-term impact."

Shawn Hawthorn, a senior firefighter for the Crosby Volunteer Fire Department, said Wednesday that the plant was difficult to reach because streets in the area were under several feet of water.

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