Flooding triggers explosions at Arkema chemical plant

Texas Governor Greg Abbott gives a briefing at the State of Texas Emergency Command Center at Department of Public Safety headquarters in Austin

Black smoke rose from the flood-hit Arkema SA chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, Houston TV station Fox 26 reported.

Harris County sheriff's office said one deputy had been taken to hospital after inhaling fumes from the plant.

The plant operated by Arkema Inc produces organic peroxides, which have a number of commercial uses, including plastics, pharmaceuticals and construction materials.

Arkema said it was continuing to monitor developments along with local authorities.

Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast August 25, bringing with it heavy rains that have resulted in at least eight deaths and shut down most plastics and petrochemicals plants in the area.

At a press news conference Wednesday, Rich Rowe, Arkema's CEO, said that if the volatile organic peroxides stored at the plant get too warm, some sort of explosion will happen.

The statement went on to say that although the plant followed hurricane preparation protocol, "unprecedented flooding overwhelmed our primary power and two sources of emergency backup power".

On Tuesday, prior to the explosions, officials ordered a mandatory evacuation zone for a 1.5 mile radius surrounding the plant.

At least 33 people have been killed in eastern Texas in the aftermath of the storm, which the US National Weather Service has now downgraded to a tropical depression.

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The Arkema chemical plant shut down its production on Friday, before the storm made landfall. That led to a loss of critical refrigeration for organic peroxide, which will burn if not kept at a low temperature.

More fires are expected at a flooded Texas chemical plant amid mixed messages over their danger to the public.

With heavy deluge from the Tropical Storm Harvey swallowing the entire Texas cities, the United States military force has mobilized its warships and aircraft to help local law administration for the rescue operations.

"We don't believe there's any further threat, even to the broader community", Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez told ABC13.

Richard Rennard, an executive with Arkema Inc., said one of nine chemical containers at the company's plant in Crosby, Tex., failed due to lack of refrigeration. The couple, Leo and LeJane Opelia, both in their late 70s, were evacuated from their home but returned on Wednesday night to check on their cats and belongings, Breaux said. Back-up generators were also flooded.

The company anticipates up to six additional explosions, Chronicle reported.

Rennard said, "If you breathe in the smoke it's going to irritate your lungs".

"We have been working closely with public officials to manage the implications of this situation, and have communicated with the public the potential for product to explode and cause an intense fire", a statement from the company reads.

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