UPDATE1 unaccounted for after blast at Houston-area plantgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
1 unaccounted for after blast at Houston-area plant As the fire burned, residents nearby were told to stay indoors March 27, 2000 Web posted at: 6:59 p.m. EST (2359 GMT)
From staff and wire reports
PASADENA, Texas -- Phillips Petroleum Co. officials say one worker remains unaccounted for after the Monday afternoon explosion at the company's chemical plant just east of Houston.
Norm Berkley, human resources manager, said at least 52 workers -- including eight with severe burns -- were being treated at Houston-area hospitals.
David Benson, a spokesman for the city of Pasadena, told CNN that most of the injuries involved burns, respiratory problems and hypertension.
"We are in the process of shutting down the entire plant at this time," Berkley said, adding, "We don't know the cause of the explosion" that tore through the K-resin unit of the facility at 1:22 p.m.
Residents of Pasadena were warned to stay indoors and turn off air conditioners. But officials from the company and the county said the smoke billowing from the plant was not toxic.
Area schools held students in class for more than two hours until officials said they could let the children go home, according to Eddie Wilkerson of the Pasadena Police Department.
"I was in the main shop area when I heard a loud explosion," said Tim Williams, a plant worker who estimated he was more than 200 yards from the explosion. "My ears hurt, and I took off running. I looked back and saw flames, and kept going."
Plant employees wait near the site of the blast 'There is no more danger' Pressed to categorize any threat from the heavy black smoke that hovered over the plant, Cindy Simpson, the environmental director for the plant, said, "If you were to inhale high concentrations of those chemicals, it could cause irritation to the eyes, nose and to the throat."
According to industry publications, K-resin is a styrene derivative used to make containers for both wet and dry products such as bottled water and candy.
Information available in the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Hazardous Materials Guide said the vapors of two of the chemicals used in K-resin -- styrene and butadiene -- can irritate the skin, eyes, nose and lungs. But Simpson, the company's environmental director, said that vapors were not escaping the plant and that the smoke was not toxic.
Berkley said, "We're confident there is no more danger." He added, "Certainly, we've had a tragic, tragic day. We've had an explosion, we've had a fire, we have injured employees..."
Rob Barrett, with Harris County Pollution Control, said his agency took readings downwind of the site and registered no toxic chemicals in the air. "I feel confident that most of the organic chemicals were burned," he said.
23 people killed in 1989 blasts The Phillips complex was the site of an October 23, 1989, series of explosions and fires in a polyethylene reactor that killed 23 and injured 130 people.
Last June, two people were killed and four were injured in an explosion at the complex that also damaged the K-resin plant. Afterward, federal officials fined Phillips $204,000 for 13 alleged safety violations.
Houston fire officials said that the refinery's internal fire crew was fighting Monday's blaze, and Deer Park, Texas, fire officials said they sent one truck and two ambulances to the plant. Deer Park is 15 miles east of Houston.
The refinery is located on Highway 225 on the north side of Pasadena, in an industrial area near the Houston Ship Channel.
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-- Martin Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 27, 2000