BREAKING NEWS – Officials of the Arkema Inc. chemical plant located in Crosby, about 25 miles northeast of Houston say the plant was rocked by two major explosions earlier this morning. One police officer was transported to a local hospital after inhaling fumes and was treated and held for observation.
In addition to the officer held over at the hospital, nine other deputies at the scene drove themselves to the hospital after being exposed to the irratant contained in the smoke according to a report on FOX26. Sources said the plant lost power Sunday during Harvey’s days-long deluge and a “series of chemical reactions” started to occur around 2 in the morning. Some of the chemicals require refrigeration to maintain their stability and without power, everyone knew an explosion was likely.
A spokeswoman told media late Wednesday. “The fire will happen. It will resemble a gasoline fire. It will be explosive and intense in nature.” Her remarks were added to this morning by the Plant’s CEO, Rich Rowe who said after the incident: “There was no way to prevent the explosion”.
The incident resulted in a mandatory evacuation of persons living within a 1.5 mile radius of the facility. In their 2014 desaster plan, the company said potentially 1.1 million residents could be affected over an area of 23 miles in a worst-case scenario. But, Arkema said it was using “multiple layers of preventative and mitigation measures”, including steps to reduce the amount of substances released, and that made the worst case “very unlikely.”
Rowe told reporters in the current situation, the company has no way to prevent the explosion because the plant is swamped by 6 feet of water. The company did not move the chemicals, but says it did take extensive preparations before the hurricane hit. Arkema manufactures a class of chemicals known as organic peroxides. These substances are used to make everything from construction materials to pharmaceuticals.
But most Peroxide chemicals need to be kept refrigerated Smith said. Without that cooling, “As the temperature rises, the natural state of these materials will decompose. A white smoke will result, and that will catch fire. So the fire is imminent. The question is when.”
The company shut down the Crosby site before Harvey made landfall Friday, but a crew of 11 had stayed behind. That group was removed and residents within 1.5 miles were told to evacuate Tuesday after the plant lost power.