Two explosions have been reported by local media sources at a flooded chemical plant northeast of Houston, Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey flooding.
Black smoke rose from the flood-hit Arkema SA chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, Houston TV station Fox 26 reported.
A family rests in a shelter at a Gallery Furniture store during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on August 30, 2017 in Houston, Texas © AFP / Brendan Smialowski
The company previously evacuated its last remaining workers Tuesday, as Harris County ordered the evacuation of residents living within a 2.4 kilometer radius of the plant.
The Arkema SA chemical plant produces organic peroxides used in the manufacturing of plastic resins, polystyrene, paints and other products.
Arkema spokeswoman Janet Smith told The Associated Press that it expected the chemicals to catch fire or explode after the building lost power to its chemical cooling systems. “The fire will happen,” she warned. “It will resemble a gasoline fire. It will be explosive and intense in nature … The question is when.”
She also said that the black smoke produced from a blaze would irritate the skin, eyes and lungs.
A woman paddles down a flooded road while shuttling deliveries for her neighbors during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on August 30, 2017 in Houston, Texas © AFP / Brendan Smialowski
Richard Rowe, chief executive of the company’s North America operations told reporters Wednesday, “We have an unprecedented 6 feet of water throughout the plant. We’ve lost primary power and two sources of emergency backup power. And as a result, critical refrigeration needed for our materials on-site is lost,”
Explaining that materials could explode to start an intense fire, he said, “The high water that exists on-site and the lack of power leave us with no way to prevent it.”
“Depending on nature of the fire, there could be a lot of it, but nothing, I would say, to pose any long-term impact,” Rowe added.
The plant, which is located about 40 kilometers northeast of Houston, was flooded by about 1.8 meters of water from tropical storm Harvey, which came ashore in Texas last week as a powerful Category 4 hurricane.