UPDATE: As many as 73 people have been injured and one person was killed in the plant blast at Williams Olefins, according to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.
As many as seven to twenty-five people may have been injured in a petrochemical plant explosion this morning that closed nearby roads and triggered a haz-mat response team near Geismar, Louisiana. The explosion occurred at the Williams Olefins plant, a petrochemical plant that produces ethylene, propylene and is a gas producer for Shell.
Responders advised homeowners within a two-mile radius from the Louisiana petrochemical plant to stay inside and other local plants were advising workers to take cover where they were as the explosion turned into a fire puffing out clouds of black smoke.
No deaths have been reported yet in the petro plant explosion, but serious burn injuries have been. Both ethylene and propylene, produced at the Louisiana plant are highly flammable substances. As many as 600 workers were inside the plant when the explosion occurred around 8:30am.
There have been mixed reports on the number of injured workers from the plant blast, although many outlets are reporting that at least six people were airlifted to nearby hospitals for treatment of burn injuries. Additional injuries could include broken bones or exposure to toxic chemicals from the explosion and subsequent fire.
The cause of the morning explosion is still under investigation. Any number of factors could have come into play in the refinery explosion, including improper or poor maintenance of machinery, a serious malfunction at some point in the refining process, a mistake by an improperly trained employee or something as simple as a lit cigarette in the wrong location of the refinery.
This refinery blast comes on the heels of the West Texas Fertilizer plant blast that took the lives of 14 people and has left a small Texas town trying to figure out how to rebuild after FEMA denied a request for federal assistance.
Source: The Times-Picayune, “Explosion at Williams Olefins plant in Geismar,” June 13, 2013