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Blasts at Texas chemical plant spark new worry as search for survivors continues

Updated: September 01, 2017 05:45AM UTC


Ben Gruber and Peter Henderson

Date: Thursday, August 31, 2017


CROSBY, Texas/BEAUMONT, Texas, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Explosions at a chemical plant near Houston posed a fresh worry for storm-battered Texas on Thursday while rescuers searched block by block for survivors of Hurricane Harvey and the death toll rose to 35 people.

The explosions in Crosby, Texas, were the latest consequence of the historic flooding brought by the most powerful storm to land in Texas in a half-century, which drove tens of thousands from their homes around the U.S. energy hub.

Portions of the state's southeastern coast, including Beaumont and Port Arthur, remained severely flooded, even as some commuters began returning to the streets of parts of Houston. In Beaumont, a hospital was evacuated after losing its water service.

In Crosby, about 30 miles (48 km) northeast of Houston, about 15 sheriff's deputies were taken to a hospital after being exposed to a 40-foot- (12-meter-) high smoke plume. The smoke erupted when chemicals stored at an Arkema SA plant burst into flames after the refrigerator cooling the truck trailer they were stored in failed.

After the multiple blasts, local public safety and company officials insisted there was no risk to the public outside the 1.5-mile (2.4-km) safety perimeter, even though they said eight more trucks storing the same chemicals would eventually catch fire.

"They are going to burn with intensity," said Bob Royall, assistant chief of emergency operations at the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office. "Most of the material is going to be consumed by a very hot fire."

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