3 injured as Texas plant explosion releases chemical plume

PORT NECHES, Texas (AP) — Three workers were injured early Wednesday in a massive explosion at a Texas chemical plant that also blew out the windows and doors of nearby homes.

The fire continued to burn Wednesday morning at the TPC Group plant, after the blast sent a large plume of smoke that stretched for miles. All employees have been accounted for, TPC said in confirming the three injuries.

The plant in Port Neches in southeast Texas, about 80 miles east of Houston, makes chemical and petroleum-based products.

Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick told Beaumont TV station KBMT the blast awakened him early Wednesday at his home, and that it initially sounded like someone firing a gun into his house.

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Storage tanks at a refinery along the waterway are shown Thursday, July 26, 2018, in Port Arthur, Texas. The oil industry wants the government to help protect some of its facilities on the Texas Gulf Coast against the effects of global warming. One proposal involves building a nearly 60-mile “spine” of flood barriers to shield refineries and chemical plants. Many Republicans argue that such projects should be a national priority. But others question whether taxpayers should have to protect refineries in a state where top politicians still dispute whether climate change is real. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
ADDS NAME OF REFINERY - This aerial photo shows the Flint Hills Resources oil refinery near downtown Houston on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017. (AP Photo/D1avid J. Phillip)
A teenage girl walks around the track of a park across the street from the Valero refinery Monday, Aug. 4, 2014, in the Manchester neighborhood of Houston. An Environmental Protection Agency rule to require refineries to monitor emissions of benzene is to be publicly debated Tuesday near Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
The Valero oil refinery near the Houston Ship Channel, part of the Port of Houston, on March 6, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Loren ELLIOTT / AFP) (Photo credit should read LOREN ELLIOTT/AFP via Getty Images)
The Valero oil refinery near the Houston Ship Channel, part of the Port of Houston, on March 6, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Loren ELLIOTT / AFP) (Photo credit should read LOREN ELLIOTT/AFP via Getty Images)
THREE RIVERS, TX-MAR 01: Though oil prices are down, the Valero Three Rivers refinery still converts the oil that is still being pumped in the area. During the boom, the San Antonio-based Valero, which is the worlds biggest independent refiner spent $50 million to improve this Three Rivers plant. As (per barrel) oil prices dropped these past months, many Texas drilling companies (and the local towns where they operated) suffered dramatic financial losses. Among those hit hard was the Houston based Swift Energy Company which has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection. Terry E. Swift is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Swift Energy Company. He is now struggling to keep the company going that was founded by his father in 1979. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 25: An oil refinery is shown on March 25, 2015 in Houston, Texas. Texas, which in just the last five years has tripled its oil production and delivered hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy, is looking at what could be a sustained downturn in prices. Crude oil prices today are almost 60 percent lower than they were six months ago. While the Texas economy has become more diversified over the years, oil is still the states largest monetary generator and any sustained downturn would be devastating for employment and the economy. Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas this month said a drop in oil prices have been responsible for 39,621 job cuts in the first two months of the year. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
BIG SPRINGS, TX - FEBRUARY 04: An oil refinery is viewed on February 4, 2015 in Big Springs, Texas. As crude oil prices have fallen nearly 60 percent globally, many American communities that became dependent on oil revenue are preparing for hard times. Texas, which benifited from hydraulic fracturing and the shale drilling revolution, tripled its production of oil in the last five years. The Texan economy saw hundreds of billions of dollars come into the state before the global plunge in prices. Across the state drilling budgets are being slashed and companies are notifying workers of upcoming layoffs. According to federal labor statistics, around 300,000 people work in the Texas oil and gas industry, 50 percent more than four years ago. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
A flare burns at an oil refinery off of the Houston Ship Channel in Houston, TX Sept 29, 2014. Photo Ken Cedeno (Photo by Ken Cedeno/Corbis via Getty Images)
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“When I got out there and grabbed my pistol and ran to the front door, I saw that the front and back door were splintered and wood had flown everywhere ... I could see the flames from the backyard,” Branick said.

The Nederland Volunteer Fire Department warned people living south of Interstate 10 near the plant to minimize their exposure to the chemical plume by sheltering in place, closing windows and turning off their heating and air conditioning systems. A mandatory evacuation was ordered for everyone within a half mile of the TPC plant, and the fire department said that evacuation could expand to wider area.

Branick told Beaumont TV station KDFM that it’s a miracle that no one died. Branick said one worker suffered burns and was taken by medical helicopter to a Houston hospital. The others had a broken wrist and a broken leg.

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