A huge explosion erupted at a chemical plant near Baton Rouge, La., Thursday, injuring dozens and leaving at least one dead.
The explosion and the subsequent fire that broke out at the plant sent seventy-three workers to area hospitals, according to Gov. Bobby Jindal (R). Of those hospitalized, one is in critical condition and two are in serious condition, officials said.
Images from the site show a towering fireball billowing black smoke into the sky
A weather reporter for local CBS affiliate WAFB noted that the smoke plume from the explosion was so huge it was picked up on Doppler Radar
Footage obtained by CNN showed the plant burning:
The explosion occurred at around 8:30 a.m. at a facility roughly 20 miles southeast of Baton Rouge. The plant makes more than one billion pounds annually of chemicals used in the manufacturing of plastics.
However, the state's Department of Environmental Quality said early tests determined there was no immediate danger from escaping chemicals since they were being eliminated through a controlled burn.
"They're not leaving a compound, they're not going into the air, they're burning off," state police Sgt. J.B. Slaton told local NBC affiliate, WVLA.
Though there is no known cause of the explosion as of yet, local WAFB reported that the facility had been flagged for a compliance violation in the past. It was not immediately clear how significant that violation was nor what it was for.
Jindal said the plant had been approved for expansion and was in the middle of a turnaround. Williams plant does have some prior compliance issues, according to Assistant DEQ Secretary Cheryl Nolan. Nolan also said she is unsure if the compliance issues were serious issues, but DEQ will be taking a look. [WAFB]
The explosion comes two months after a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, killed 15 people and wrecked much of the town. Investigators have yet to determine what caused that explosion.