As predicted, the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, exploded early on Thursday morning after the site flooded in Hurricane Harvey. Two explosions were heard around 2 a.m. local time, and a plume of black smoke was coming from the building.
Julia Bagg of NBC 6 in Miami said deputies near the plant complained of headaches and dizziness after the blast, and they headed to the hospital. Firefighters had reporters move another two miles away from the plant.
Arkema said it had prepared for the hurricane and had contingency plans in place, but “unprecedented flooding overwhelmed our primary power and two sources of emergency backup power.” That meant there was no way to refrigerate the volatile peroxides produced at the facility, which burn if they aren’t stored at low temperatures.
Eleven workers remained at the plant in the early days of the storm, but on Tuesday they were sent home and residents within 1.5 miles of the plant were evacuated after Arkema determined that there was no way to prevent an explosion. The company released a statement confirming the explosions:
We have been working closely with public officials to manage the implications of this situation, and have communicated with the public the potential for product to explode and cause an intense fire. Organic peroxides are extremely flammable and, as agreed with public officials, the best course of action is to let the fire burn itself out.
We want local residents to be aware that product is stored in multiple locations on the site, and a threat of additional explosion remains. Please do not return to the area within the evacuation zone until local emergency response authorities announce it is safe to do so.
“I apologize to everyone impacted by our situation,” added Arkema CEO Rich Rowe.