The Slatest

Fires Reported at Harvey-Flooded Chemical Facility in Texas

Emergency vehicles wait at a roadblock near a chemical plant operated by the Arkema Group on Thursday.

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Fires and chemical releases initially thought to be explosions have been reported at a flooded Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas. Fifteen sheriff’s deputies were hospitalized for nontoxic fume inhalation, and eight have been released. From NPR:

Due to flooding from Hurricane Harvey, the plant lost power—and the ability to safely store chemicals that can explode and cause intense fires.

Early Thursday, Arkema said that two explosions were reported at the plant northeast of Houston, adding that the Harris County Emergency Operations Center had also told it black smoke was rising from the plant. The county’s emergency and safety officials insist that nothing at the plant exploded. “It wasn’t an explosion, I want to be very clear. It was not an explosion,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said of the incident, which he said was due to containers “basically popping.”

Arkema had warned that explosions at the plant were expected—the plant lost power on Sunday, knocking out its refrigeration system for volatile chemicals. Both the outage and flooding are preventing a fix. The company’s president warned that eight other chemical containers could also burn. On Tuesday, all residents within a 1.5 mile radius of the plant were evacuated. The plant has not released its inventory of chemicals stored at the plant to journalists or the public.

On Wednesday, the Sierra Club released a list of 10 chemical facilities and refineries, including the Arkema plant, that have reported Harvey-related problems.