Officials in East Texas said Thursday they didn’t know when roughly 50,000 people evacuated from their homes following two explosions at a chemical plant would be able to return, as an onsite fire continued to burn.
Jefferson County Sheriff Zena Stephens told reporters the evacuation order would remain in place due to ongoing danger from flames, explosions and debris and not due to concerns about air quality near the TPC Group facility in Port Neches, about 80 miles east of Houston, Fox News reported.
The evacuation order covers a four-mile radius from the plant, which makes chemical and petroleum-based products, Kallanish Energy reports.
Government officials and TPC Group released a joint statement Thursday saying air quality results from 20 monitoring stations around Port Neches “continue to show no actionable levels” above state and federal standards.
The initial explosion occurred at roughly 1 a.m. Wednesday, sending a large plume of smoke stretching for miles, with a fire soon starting.
The second explosion ripped through the plant shortly before 2 p.m., sending a steel reactor tower high into the air. That prompted Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick, the top county official, to order a mandatory evacuation of Port Neches and neighboring Groves, Nederland and part of Port Arthur, Texas.
Branick told reporters late Wednesday a loss of power at the plant prevented any investigation into the cause of the explosions or how much damage was done to the facility, Fox News reported. He said there was no estimate yet on the extent of damage to surrounding neighborhoods.
Troy Monk, TPC’s director of Health, Safety and Security, told media two TPC employees and a contractor injured in the first blast were treated at hospitals and released.
Texas has seen multiple petrochemical industry blazes this year, including a March fire at Intercontinental Terminals Co.’s surubrban Houston storage facility that burned for days, and another that killed a worker at a plant in nearby Crosby, Texas.
In the March fire, prosecutors filed five water pollution charges against the company that owns the petrochemical storage facility after chemicals flowed into a nearby waterway.
This post appeared first on Kallanish Energy News.