Explosions reported at flooded chemical plant in Houston area

Source: Xinhua| 2017-09-01 04:24:53|Editor: yan
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HOUSTON, Aug. 31 (Xinhua) -- Explosions and fires broke out Thursday at a chemical plant in Crosby, northeast of Great Houston after the area was flood-strickened.

The Arkema chemical plant which is about 40 km from downtown Houston, was knocked out power by floodwaters on Monday. The plant needs electricity to keep volatile chemicals stored at the facility cool.

At a press conference Wednesday, Rich Rowe, Arkema's CEO, said that if the volatile organic peroxides stored at the plant get too warm, some sort of explosion is inevitable.

Authorities cautioned nearby residents to stay inside, turn off their air conditioning and close their windows and doors.

All employees at the plant had been evacuated by late Tuesday, as were residents from about 300 nearby homes. The Federal Aviation Administration barred flights over the area.

The chemicals at risk, organic peroxides, are stored in nine 18-wheeler box vans with 36,000 pounds each. Once they lose refrigeration, they generate heat that causes them to degrade and burn.

Dr. Wang, an environmental engineer with a Houston-based company, told Xinhua that, in fact, it's not "explosion", and it's a kind of burst. He further explained that the organic peroxides would react with water, resulting in propylene glycol, which is harmless to human. "In an area no less than 2.5 km away from the plant, you should be safe."

The Hurricane Harvey has downgraded to a tropical depression, but heavy rains still could cause new flooding in far eastern Texas and western Louisiana, according to the National Hurricane Center on Wednesday.

As for Wednesday evening, more than 30 people were dead or feared dead in the flooding triggered by Harvey, according to local officials.

Catastrophic flooding waters brought by the Hurricane Harvey which made landfall Friday night have inundated Houston. As water begins to recedes in Houston, some challenges remains, such as environmental pollution and public health issues.