2 explosions hit Arkema chemical plant near Houston

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Two explosions have rocked the Arkema chemical plant in the community of Crosby just northeast of Houston, officials say. Local residents had been evacuated after the company said the flooding had made explosions inevitable.

Arkema said it was notified by the Harris County Emergency Operations Center at about 2 a.m. CT on Thursday that two explosions had occurred at the Arkema plant in Crosby. Black smoke was billowing from the site, it added.

A large number of emergency services have responded to the scene.

The company said it has agreed with public officials that 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 explosions remains,” it warned, urging people not to return to the area.

Local officials had previously established an evacuation zone of 1.5 mile around the plant and all workers at the site had been evacuated. “We continue to work closely with federal, state and local authorities to manage the situation,” the company said in a statement.

The explosion came just hours after Arkema said an explosion and “intense fire” were inevitable, noting that the plant had been flooded with 6 feet (1.8 meter) of water. Both primary power and two sources of emergency backup power had failed.

“As a result, we have lost critical refrigeration of the materials on site that could now explode and cause a subsequent intense fire,” the company said in a statement late Wednesday. “The high water and lack of power leave us with no way to prevent it.”

The Arkema plant manufactures highly combustible organic peroxides, a family of compounds that are used in a wide range of applications, such as making pharmaceuticals and construction materials.

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