Thursday, June 13, 2013

La. state police: Blast, fire at chemical plant




At least 30 injured in Louisiana plant explosion

1:29 p.m. EDT June 13, 2013

An explosion rocks The Williams Companies Inc. plant in the Ascension Parish town of Geismar, La., on Thursday.(Photo: Ryan Meador via AP)

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Geismar, Louisiana

GEISMAR, Louisiana (AP) — Ambulances and helicopters took at least 30 people from a burning chemical plant after an explosion Thursday in Louisiana, officials said.

Early tests did not indicate dangerous levels of any chemicals around the plant in Geismar, southeast of Baton Rouge, but area residents were told to remain indoors with doors and windows closed, said Jean Kelly, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Quality.

She said helicopters took three or four people Thursday from the plant owned by The Williams Companies Inc., and ground ambulances took 30. Kelly did not have other details about injuries.

Seven victims were taken to Baton Rouge General Medical Center and more were expected, the hospital said in a news release on its website.

Workers scrambled over gates and ran from the plant when they heard the explosion, which shook the ground and was followed by a "ball of fire," Daniel Cuthbertson, a fuel truck operator with CBI construction based in Taft, California, said later at a police roadblock.

The company said in a news release on its website that the flow of chemicals to the fire had been cut off by 10 a.m. local time.

Louisiana State Police Capt. Doug Cain said the explosion occurred around 8:30 a.m. local time Thursday at the plant. It makes ethylene and propylene — highly flammable gases that are basic building blocks in the petrochemical industry.

A thick plume of black smoke rose from the plant. At a roadblock several miles (kilometers) away, where family members waited anxiously to hear about loved ones, flames were easily visible above the trees.

Kelly said an ethylene fire at ground level reportedly was waning several hours after the explosion.


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