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50K People Evacuated After Huge Chemical Plant Blast

November 27, 2019
An explosion injured three people at the TPC Group chemical plant in Port Neches, TX on Wednesday. Image courtesy of Pixabay
An explosion injured three people at the TPC Group chemical plant in Port Neches, TX on Wednesday. Image courtesy of Pixabay

A massive explosion in a processing unit at the TPC Group chemical plant in Port Neches, TX during the early hours of Wednesday morning left three people with injuries. Officials said the blast caused damage across the community and led to the evacuation of some 50,000 people near the plant. 

The company activated its emergency response plan and called for assistance the Port Naches Fire Department and a neighboring Huntsman plant after the explosion was reported at 1 am, TPC Group Spokesperson Sara Cronin said in an interview with 12NewsNow. “The event is on-going but we are working to bring it under control as quickly and safety as possible,” Cronin told the television news station. “The most important message here is that all of our employees and all personnel on site have been accounted for.”

Area residents heard multiple booms from the facility during the incident and that the force of the explosion shattered glass around Port Neches, NBC News affiliate KAGS reported.

“There’s extensive damage throughout the city,” Port Neches Police Department said in a statement posted to its Facebook page. Fire officials issued a mandatory evacuation order for homes and businesses in a half-mile radius around the plant during the response. A shelter-in-place order was also given for some areas impacted by smoke from the plant. 

Two TPC Group employees and a contractor were transported to area hospitals with injuries, according to the company. A cause of the explosion has not yet been established, but the company said it plans to conduct an investigation. 

TPC Group produces petrochemical products – including Butadiene, Polyisobutylene, fuel products, and Isobutylene derivatives – for use in the performance, specialty, and intermediate segments. 

Toby Baker, the executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) issued a statement on the Port Neches fire calling out the chemical industry for repeated safety incidents during the course of 2019. 

"Within the last year, I have witnessed an unacceptable trend of significant incidents impacting the Gulf Coast region. While not all emergency events may be prevented, it is imperative that industry be accountable and held to the higest standard of compliance to ensure the safety of the state's citizens and the protection of the environment," Baker said. "At this time, the TCEQ is focused on emergency response efforts, including evaluating real-time air quality data."

The evacuation order was lifted on Friday after the fire was brought under control. 

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