3 injured as explosion rocks Port Neches chemical plant

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A large fire continues to burn Wednesday morning in Port Neches, about 100 miles east of Houston,  after an explosion rocked a chemical plant there around 1 a.m.

The Port Neches Police Department said in a statement “There’s extensive damage throughout the city." The explosion happened at the TPC Group Port Neches operations site. The plant makes products for chemical and petroleum companies.

Three people were injured in the explosion. The TPC Group, which is based in Houston, said in a statement that two employees and one contractor were injured and were taken to Southeast Texas Regional Medical Center and Memorial Hermann for treatment.

Huge flames were still shooting from the plant hours after the initial explosion. At this point, the cause is undetermined. The TPC Group said "Emergency responders are still working to bring the event under control, and are doing so as quickly and safely as possible. Teams have been dispatched to conduct air monitoring along the fence line of the facility and in surrounding neighborhoods through mutual aid."

We’ve heard from people that say they felt the explosion from miles away. One Port Neches native, Steven Bellrose, said the explosion shook his whole house and the church he attends is damaged.

"Our church is within an eighth of a mile of the plant. It blew out every single window around the outside of our church, blew the glass inside the church. Even a neighbor, one of our pastor’s sons lives right up the road from here, knocked in his front door," said Bellrose.

Officials say one of the chemicals burning is butadiene. According to OSHA, butadiene is a colorless gas that has a mile gasoline-like odor. It is made from processing petroleum and is used to make synthetic rubber and plastics.

OSHA says acute low exposure to butadiene may cause irritation to the eyes, throat, nose, and lungs. Acute high exposure may cause damage to the central nervous system or cause symptoms such as distorted blurred vision, vertigo, general tiredness, decreased blood pressure, headache, nausea, decreased pulse rate, and fainting.

Also in their statement about the incident, TPC Group said "TPC Group sincerely remains focused on protecting the safety of responders and the public and minimizing any impact to the environment. We encourage area residents to stay tuned to information from Jefferson County Emergency Management and local responders."

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