Blasts rock Texas chem­i­cal plant as Har­vey dan­ger moves east

Truro Daily News - - CLASSIFIED­S/WORLD -

Fires and two ex­plo­sions rocked a flooded Houston-area chem­i­cal plant early Thurs­day, send­ing up a plume that fed­eral au­thor­i­ties de­scribed as “in­cred­i­bly dan­ger­ous” and adding a po­ten­tial new haz­ard to the af­ter­math of Har­vey.

The blasts at the Arkema Inc. plant, about 40 kilo­me­tres north­east of Houston, also ig­nited a 30- to 40-foot flame. The French op­er­a­tor of the plant said up to eight more chem­i­cal con­tain­ers could burn and ex­plode.

Lo­cal of­fi­cials in­sisted that the ex­plo­sion pro­duced no tox­ins.

The blasts hap­pened as flood­wa­ters from days of re­lent­less rain be­gan to re­cede and the threat of ma­jor dan­gers from the storm shifted to a re­gion near the Texas-Louisiana line.

Fire au­thor­i­ties said the blasts were small and that some deputies suf­fered ir­ri­tated eyes from the smoke, but they em­pha­sized that the ma­te­ri­als that caught fire shortly af­ter mid­night were not toxic.

Even so, the Texas Com­mis­sion on En­vi­ron­men­tal Qual­ity urged peo­ple in the area to stay in­doors with their win­dows closed and air con­di­tion­ers run­ning, and to re­strict phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity. Par­ti­cles from smoke and chem­i­cals can af­fect peo­ple with heart and lung prob­lems.

At a news con­fer­ence in Washington, D.C., the ad­min­is­tra­tor of the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, Brock Long, told re­porters that the plume was haz­ardous.

In the largely ru­ral area sur­round­ing the plant, of­fi­cials said they went door to door to ex­plain the sit­u­a­tion and called on res­i­dents to evac­u­ate, but leav­ing was not manda­tory.

The plant, in Crosby, lost power af­ter the storm, leav­ing it with­out re­frig­er­a­tion for chem­i­cals that be­come volatile as tem­per­a­tures rise. Arkema shut down the plant be­fore Har­vey made land­fall.

As the sun rose, an AP pho­tog­ra­pher at a road­block about three kilo­me­tres from the scene could see no sign of a blaze in the di­rec­tion of the plant.

In Houston, the res­cues con­tin­ued apace. The fire depart­ment be­gan a block-by-block search Thurs­day of thou­sands of flooded homes to look for any­one left be­hind in the flood­wa­ters, a process that was ex­pected to take one to two weeks, As­sis­tant Fire Chief Richard Mann said.

The lat­est sur­veys in­di­cate that the storm and flood­wa­ters have caused ma­jor dam­age to more than 37,000 homes and de­stroyed nearly 7,000, the Texas Depart­ment of Pub­lic Safety re­ported.

Farther east, Beau­mont and Port Arthur strug­gled with ris­ing wa­ter af­ter be­ing pounded with what re­mained of the weak­en­ing storm.

The con­firmed death toll climbed to at least 31, in­clud­ing six fam­ily mem­bers — four of them chil­dren — whose bod­ies were pulled Wed­nes­day from a van that had been swept off a Houston bridge into a bayou.

Beau­mont and Port Arthur worked to evac­u­ate res­i­dents. Port Arthur found it­self in­creas­ingly iso­lated as flood­wa­ters swamped most ma­jor roads out of the city. More than 500 peo­ple — along with dozens of dogs, cats, a lizard and a monkey — took shel­ter at the Max Bowl bowl­ing al­ley, gen­eral man­ager Jeff Tol­liver said.

“The monkey was a lit­tle sur­pris­ing, but we’re try­ing to help,” he said.

HOUSTON CHRON­I­ClE vIA AP

The Arkema Inc. chem­i­cal plant is shown Wed­nes­day in Crosby, Texas. The plant about 40 kilo­me­tres north­east of Houston lost power and its backup gen­er­a­tors amid Trop­i­cal Storm Har­vey’s days-long del­uge, leav­ing it with­out re­frig­er­a­tion for chem­i­cals...

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