Authorities are investigating what caused a massive explosion at a Louisiana chemical plant that killed one person and has left over 75 people injured, some critically, with burns, heart and breathing problems, blunt trauma and other injuries.
The blast occurred at the Williams Olefins plant in Geismar, located along the Mississippi River. It is only one of 12 plants along a 10-mile stretch of the river. According to the company website, the Williams Olefins facility produces 1.3 billion pounds of ethylene and 90 million pounds of propylene, highly flammable gasses used in the production of petrochemicals, per year.
Hundreds of employees were working inside the plant when the explosion occurred. Witnesses described the scene as “mass hysteria” with workers running and climbing over gates, trying to escape the fire that erupted after the explosion, shooting flames as high as 200 feet into the air.
Several employees remained behind in a blast-proof control room, where they managed to shut down critical areas and prevented the disaster from spreading throughout the plant.
Authorities confirmed that 29 year old Zachary Green, from Hammond, was killed in the blast. His body was found by hazmat crews who were inspecting the site. Of the dozens of other victims who were treated at area hospitals, three still remain in critical condition.
Investigators still don’t know what caused the explosion, but did say it was the propylene and not the ethylene which had caught fire in the explosion. Louisiana Department of Environment Quality (DEQ) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials were at the scene monitoring the air quality following the blast.
Ethylene can affect the nervous system, causing shakiness or dizziness, and can irritate eyes and sinuses. Propylene can be a potential carcinogen and can cause difficulty breathing when inhaled.
Emergency Film Group’s Propane, Butane & Propylene is part of The HazChem Series of safety training videos. This program focuses on propane, butane and propylene, the most common liquefied petroleum gases. Highly flammable, their containers can fail with explosive force. To learn more, read here . . .