Emergency officials in the state of Texas issued a mandatory evacuation order for the area within 4 miles of a Port Neches chemical plant. This came after a second explosion rocked the facility Wednesday afternoon.
Black smoke was still coming out of TPC Group’s Port Neches Operations site Wednesday evening. It was nearly a full day after an overnight explosion started a fire that burned throughout the day. A total of three workers were injured, according to the company.
It was not immediately clear how long the evacuation order would remain in effect. To date, about 50,000 people live in the evacuated area, local media reported.
The 218-acre Port Neches facility is located next to the Sabine Naches River, which is about a 90-minute drive east from Houston.
The plant produces more than 900 million pounds of material per year, according to TPC Group. The material includes butadiene, a gas used for a variety of synthetic materials like rubber and nylon. TPC Group warns that butadiene is extremely flammable and tends to explode if heated. It also may cause genetic defects and cancer.
Firefighters at the scene appeared to be working to cool storage tanks that local media reported contained butadiene.
“In response to the community impact to the event at our Port Neches Operations site, TPC has established a Community Assistance Hotline. Impacted community members should file claims by calling (866)-501-5880 for assistance. Check our website for more info,” the company noted.
TPC Group says that it produces about 35 percent of the butadiene in North America between the Port Neches plant and another facility in Houston.
There are more than 200 people who work at the facility, including about 175 full-time employees and 50 contractors, according to the company. There were about 30 employees working at the time of the explosion, The Associated Press reported.