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2 Explosions & Black Smoke Reported at Texas Chemical Plant Flooded By Harvey

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A chemical plant affected by the rainfall from Tropical Storm Harvey confirmed that their facility in Crosby, Texas suffered two explosions in a statement early Thursday morning and state that "the threat of additional explosion remains." 

Per the statement, the company writes that they were notified around 2 a.m. by the Harris County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) of the two explosions (and black smoke reportedly coming from the plant) and noted that local officials had already evacuated the surrounding 1.5 mile area around the plant prior to the incident. They note that the facility is in a rural area and there are no hospitals, schools, correctional facilities, recreational areas or commercial/industrial spaces nearby.  

The Arkema, Inc. plant deals in manufacturing peroxides (used to make pharmaceuticals and construction materials) that need to be kept refrigerated to avoid reactions that cause fire or explosions. However, they report that the plant lost power earlier this week as the storm moved in and brought four to six feet of flood waters — adding that "the plant has never experienced flooding of this magnitude before."

In the statement, the company said that despite their preparation plans (and "redundant contingency plans") set to deal with hurricanes, the "unprecedented flooding overwhelmed [their] primary power and two sources of emergency back-up power leading their compounds that "burn if not stored at low temperature" to react. 

"We have been working closely with public officials to manage the implications of this situation, and have communicated with the public the potential for product to explode and cause an intense fire. Organic peroxides are extremely flammable and, as agreed with public officials, the best course of action is to let the fire burn itself out," the statement reads. "We want local residents to be aware that product is stored in multiple locations on the site, and a threat of additional explosion remains. Please do not return to the area within the evacuation zone until local emergency response authorities announce it is safe to do so."

According to Click 2 Houston, a local outlet, the Harris County Sheriff's Office said that at least one deputy was brought to the hospital after inhaling fumes from the plant and that nine others also drove themselves and sought medical attention "as a precaution" after experiencing headaches or dizziness near the site. 

CBS This Morning also reports that around 20 people have headed to a local hospital due to "respiratory distress issues." 

On Wednesday, the BBC reported that Arkema Inc. CEO Richard Rowe said that the flooding and lack of power made it impossible to prevent the fires or explosions. He also said that the black smoke coming from the fires would likely irritate a person's eyes, skins or lungs. 

"Any fire will probably resemble a large gasoline fire. The fire will be explosive and intense," Rowe said. 

The Daily Beast reported that Row also said any fires coming the plant wouldn't pose a "long-term harm or impact" and that there would be "minimal" lasting environmental impacts.  


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