Geismar Explosion at Chemical Plant Injures Dozens, Kills One

Image: Geismar Explosion at Chemical Plant Injures Dozens, Kills One

Thursday, 13 Jun 2013 04:33 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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A chemical plant in Geismar, La., exploded Thursday morning, and at least 30 and as many as 60 people were injured with one confirmed dead.

The Williams Geismar olefins plant exploded at 8:37 a.m., and a company website announcement said emergency shut-down valves were closed and the unit has been isolated.

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“We are in the process of accounting for all personnel,” the release said. “Injuries have been reported, the number and extent of those injuries is not known at this point.”

The International Business Times reported the scene was stabilized and the fire was contained by 10:50 a.m. The state police said there was still concern that a secondary explosion could occur, media reports indicated.

RT.com reported that authorities on-site said the death toll could be very high. Thirteen people were reported airlifted to nearby hospitals and burn units, with more than 60 being transported by ambulance. Conflicting media reports in the aftermath of the explosion indicated 30 were injured.

Clouds of black smoke filled the sky after the explosion, and pictures and video appeared online quickly.

A witness, Ryan Meador, told local station 90 WAFB, “It looked like a pretty big explosion. It looks like Williams have taken all the precautions they can do to evacuate all the personnel. Everyone evacuated to the road. Everyone is trained for something like this.”

The plant employs about 600 people. It is a petrochemical plant owned by Williams Cos. Inc., Tulsa, Okla. According to the Williams website, the Louisiana facility annually produces about 1.3 billion pounds of ethylene and 90 million pounds of polymer grade propylene. The website also indicated that the plant was in the process of being expanded.

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality indicated that the fumes in the air after the explosion were residual propylene.

Hot lines were set up for family members concerned about people working at the plant. People in the area of the plant were asked to stay home, and parts of the nearby highways were closed.

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