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Explosions at Harvey hit Arkema chemicals plant in Texas

Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data [CC BY-SA 3.0-igo (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0-igo) or Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons
Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data [CC BY-SA 3.0-igo (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0-igo) or Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

Two explosions have taken place at an Arkema chemical plant in Texas, as the state continues to be battered by tropical storm Harvey.

According to the Guardian, a sheriff’s deputy was taken to hospital after inhaling chemical fumes, and nine others attended hospitals as a precaution.

“At approximately 2 a.m. CDT, we were notified by the Harris County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) of two explosions and black smoke coming from the Arkema plant in Crosby, Texas,” the industrial chemical manufacturer writes in a statement.

“Local officials had previously established an evacuation zone in an area 1.5 miles from our plant, based on their assessment of the situation.”

The Crosby plant makes organic peroxides which are used in the production of plastic resins, polystyrene, paints and other products. Some of these peroxides can burn if not stored at a low temperature.

 

Warnings

Arkema reported on 30 August that the plant had been safely shutdown in anticipation of the hurricane making landfall on Texas’ Gulf of Mexico coast. However, the company also warned that the plant had flooded with 40 inches of rainwater by the afternoon of 28 August. This ‘unprecedented’ flooding overwhelmed the plant’s primary power and two backup sources.

The situation was described by Arkema as “serious”, the company warning that refrigeration at some of the plant’s backup storage containers had been compromised.

“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,” Arkema said, in the statement issued following the explosions on 31 August.

“Organic peroxides are extremely flammable and, as agreed with public officials, the best course of action is to let the fire burn itself out.”

Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data [CC BY-SA 3.0-igo (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0-igo) or Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons