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Reuters/Rick Wilking
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Texas chemical plant explodes after Hurricane Harvey flooding

By Lianna Brinded

A chemical plant in Crosby, Texas exploded after flooding from Hurricane Harvey, which was downgraded to a Tropical Storm, and then Tropical Depression.

France’s Arkema, the owner of the plant, confirmed in a statement that at 2am local time (Aug 31) it notified the authorities of two explosions and black smoke coming from the facility. Arkema said that local authorities had already  evacuated the surrounding 1.5 mile area and it had already evacuated its 57 workers.

The plant exploded when flooding killed its electricity supply, backup generator, and therefore “critical refrigeration.” Some of the products in the plant, namely organic peroxides, are extremely flammable and burn if they are not stored at a low temperature. This is why without the cooling methods, it led to a chemical reaction blast.

Arkema confirmed in the statement that, in agreement with public officials, “the best course of action is to let the fire burn itself out.” However it warned that extremely flammable products are stored in “multiple locations on the site” and further explosions could still happen. Subsequently, Arkema asked people to “not return to the area within the evacuation zone until local emergency response authorities announce it is safe to do so.”

Harvey has led to mass evacuation of affected areas, claimed the lives of at least 30 people, destroyed around 50,000 homes, and led authorities to impose an overnight curfew amid looting and armed robberies as flooding continues. As well as the human fallout, Harvey is also causing catastrophe across various industries, with a bulk of US oil refineries being shut down amid flooding, accounting for 2.2 million barrels of capacity sitting idle each day.