Evacuation Order Lifted as Huge Texas Plant Fire ‘Contained’

PORT NECHES, Texas (AP) -
texas chemical plant explosion
A process tower flies through air after exploding at the TPC Group Petrochemical Plant, after an earlier massive explosion sparked a blaze at the plant, in Port Neches, Texas, Wednesday. (Reuters/Erwin Seba)

A massive Texas chemical plant fire that rocked a Gulf Coast town with two major explosions is finally considered contained after three days and evacuation orders for 50,000 people have been lifted, officials said Friday.

“We are in a position to say it’s contained. We feel comfortable with the efforts that have been made by our firefighters,” Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick said at a news conference.

Branick said residents should still avoid the area around the TPC Group plant about 80 miles east of Houston. He said fires remain in the facility but are isolated.

The explosions began early Wednesday morning and blew out windows and doors of nearby homes. Three workers were injured, and the evacuation orders covered a four-mile radius around the plant during the Thanksgiving holiday.

Officials at the plant said fire and smoke from the plant may remain visible, and they did not know when the blazes would be fulling extinguished.

Branick said it may be several months before the cause of the explosions is known.

The plant makes chemical and petroleum-based products. Authorities have said the first blast occurred around 1 a.m. Wednesday in an area of the plant that makes butadiene, a chemical used to make synthetic rubber and other products. It sent a large plume of smoke stretching for miles and started a fire.

The second blast ripped through the plant about 2 p.m., sending a steel reactor tower rocketing high into the air. That prompted Branick, the top county official, to order a mandatory evacuation of Port Neches and neighboring Groves, Nederland and part of Port Arthur.