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Explosion at Louisiana chemical plant kills 1, injures 77

Plant makes ethylene and propylene – basic building blocks in the petrochemical industry.


June 14, 2013
by ASSOCIATED PRESS

GEISMAR, La. — An explosion at a south Louisiana chemical plant June 13 killed one person and sent more than 70 hospital.

A body was found by hazardous materials crews moving through the site after the blast, state police Capt. Doug Cain said. Police identified the man killed as 29-year-old Zachary C. Green, of Hammond.

Louisiana’s health department said 77 people were treated at hospitals and 51 of those had been released by evening. Hospitals reported that workers mostly had burns, cardiac and respiratory issues and bruises, health department spokeswoman Christina Stephens said in a statement.

The Williams Companies Inc., which owns the plant, said the blast occurred at 8:37 a.m. By the afternoon, all of the plant’s more than 300 workers had been accounted for, Cain said.

The plant is in an industrial area of Geismar, a Mississippi River community about 20 miles southeast of Baton Rouge. It’s one of scores of chemical and industrial facilities dotting the riverside between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

A few homes and four other plants are within two miles, said Lester Kenyon, spokesman for Ascension Parish government.

The cause was not immediately known but the FBI said terrorism was not suspected.

More than 300 people were evacuated from the site, but some stayed behind, officials said. Ten workers stayed in an explosive-proof control centre as the fire raged, Cain said. The workers performed vital tasks, including shutting valves that rendered the plant safe, he said.

Officials at area hospitals said a handful of patients were in critical or serious condition, though most seemed to have minor injuries.

The plant makes ethylene and propylene – highly flammable gases that are the basic building blocks in the petrochemical industry.

Early tests did not indicate dangerous levels of any chemicals around the plant after the blast, but Cain said air monitoring continued in the afternoon.