1 dead, 77 hurt in La. plant explosion
GEISMAR, La. (AP) - A ground-rattling explosion at a chemical plant in Louisiana ignited a blaze that killed at least one person and injured dozens of others. Louisiana's health department says 77 people were treated at hospitals for injuries ranging from minor to critical following the Thursday morning explosion.
A morning explosion and fire at a Louisiana chemical plant Thursday killed one person and injured more than two dozen others, authorities confirmed as responders worked to put out the flames.
The explosion took place at Williams Chemical Plant in Ascension Parish, Louisiana State Police said, and a fire after the explosion appeared to be contained in the plant.
Twenty-five people sustained unspecified injuries, said Paige Hargrove, executive director of the Louisiana Emergency Response Network. State police confirmed that one person, whose identity has not been released, was killed in the explosion.
There are no confirmed fatalities and no official count on the injured, said Jared Sadifer, a state police spokesman. A two-mile radius has been set up around the area but there is no residential impact, Sadifer said. A chemical is being burned off, but there is no immediate threat to the public and it is not being released into the air, he said.
“The chemicals are burning off,” Sgt. J.B. Slaton of the Louisiana State Police told NBC News affiliate WVLA. “They’re not leaving a compound, they’re not going into the air, they’re burning off.”
The site of the explosion remains an “active scene,” Lester Kenyon, a public information officer for Ascension Parish, told NBC News. He said the parish’s emergency operations center is in “partial activation” as personnel from local police and fire departments, Homeland Security, and the Ascension Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness are on scene.
Baton Rouge General Medical Center said it had received 7 victims after the explosion, and St. Elizabeth Hospital in Gonzales received 8 more patients. Eleven patients were transported to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, two of them in critical condition.
A total of ten patients were transported from the scene by Arcadian Ambulance Services, the local ambulance company said on Twitter. Six of those patients were transported by air and 4 by ground transportation.
Baton Rouge General Medical Center said it had received 7 victims after the explosion.
The explosion occurred at 8:37am local time, Williams said in a media release on Thursday. Emergency responders were notified and shut-down valves were closed after the explosion, isolating the unit, according to the release.
"The fire is greatly diminished at this time,” the company said in the release. “Our emergency-response crews are thoroughly trained to respond to these types of incidents and are diligently performing their work with their first priority being the safety and well-being of people in and around the area.”
State police said the fire continued to burn, and was contained to the portion of the 25-acre property where the explosion occurred. The cause of the fire remained undetermined, said Slaton.
The plant is located in Geismar, La., about 60 miles northwest of New Orleans and 20 miles southeast of Baton Rouge. The area was described by officials as unincorporated and largely industrial.
“We’re continuing to do a head count for every single person who was on site,” state police Capt. Doug Cain told WVLA. “Hazmat crews are now going on ground at the site to see what remains.”
Fire officials in nearby Gonzales, La., told NBC News that its fire chief and district fire chief are on the scene in Geismar.
The Williams Olefins facility in the town produces about 1.3 billion pounds of ethylene and 90 million pounds of propylene a year, according to the petrochemical company’s website.
Gov. Bobby Jindal said on Twitter that he would travel to the plant site to meet with first responders.