By August 31, 2017 Read More →

Arkema SA expects more fires after two explosions at flooded plant


Two explosions rocked the Arkema SA chemical plant in Crosby, Texas on Thursday. The company warns more explosions at the facility are likely. CNN photo.

Arkema explosions early Thursday morning

Two explosions occurred at the Arkema SA chemical plant located in Crosby Texas, 25 miles northeast of Houston, early Thursday morning.

The explosions occurred after cooling systems to keep volatile chemicals in the plant stable failed due to flooding as a result of Hurricane Harvey.  On Wednesday, the company warned it had no way to prevent the fires and possible explosions.

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As a result of the blasts, 15 Harris County Sheriff personnel were hospitalized following the explosions due to smoke inhalation, but all were released by mid-morning on Thursday.

Local officials and Arkema believe the smoke from the resulting fires is non-toxic, but people were urged to stay away from the site until the fire burns itself out.

Company official, Richard Rennard told reporters “Any smoke is going to be an irritant.” He added “Certainly, these things burn when they degrade, and there is the possibility that an explosion could happen.”

The chemicals involved are organic peroxides which need to be kept cool, but Hurricane Harvey knocked out power to the facility on Sunday and after two other backup plans also failed, temperatures rose and two containers exploded.

Jeff Carr of Griffin Communications, which represents Arkema, says there are three more containers holding the same chemicals “at risk of overpressurization”.

With the threat of more explosions looming, the company has warned nearby residents to stay away from the area.

“We want local residents to be aware that product is stored in multiple locations on the site, and a threat of additional explosion remains,” Arkema said in a statement. “Please do not return to the area within the evacuation zone until local emergency response authorities announce it is safe to do so.”

The peroxides are used to make plastic resins, polystyrene, paints and other products.

Reuters reports the US Environmental Protection Agency has emergency personnel on the scene.  So far, the agency says there are “no concentrations of concern for toxic materials.”

The Arkema plant was shuttered on Friday and on Tuesday, the remaining skeleton staff was evacuated.  Harris County ordered the evacuation of several hundred nearby residents living within a 1.5 mile radius on Tuesday.

According to Reuters, one woman was franticly looking for an elderly couple who live in the area.  Leo and LeJane Opelia, who live two streets from the plant had returned home on Wednesday to care for their cats and belongings after the were evacuated earlier.

“I heard from them last night, and now I keep trying to call them, and I can’t reach them,” Frances Breaux tearfully told Reuters. “I just want to make sure that they are OK.”

She was told by police that the area was too dangerous to enter.

On Thursday, shares of Arkema fell 1.9 per cent in Paris trading.


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