At least one person is missing and two people are badly injured after an explosion at a chemical plant in Hood County, Texas.
Witnesses described what sounded like a “big kaboom” on Thursday morning, NBC Dallas-Forth Worth reported. The explosion took place at Tri-Chem Industries in Cresson, located about 20 miles southwest of Fort Worth. The liquid chemical plant manufactures things like soap and acid, according to Cresson Mayor Bob Cornett.
“Things were blowing out of the roof, like metal lids on buckets. Then, the fire,” Jesse Bailey, who works next door to the plant, told the local NBC station. “It smells like sulfur.”
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At least two explosions have been reported at the plant. The Texas Department of Public Safety was forced to close parts of the highway in Hood County and Cresson due to billowing smoke from the fire.
Firefighters who arrived at the scene have since been evacuated from the area due to fears of another explosion. The chemical plant and nearby lumber yard have also been evacuated. The plan by officials is reportedly to let the fire burn itself out. The cause of the incident is still being investigated.
The explosion comes just one day ahead of a D.C. Circuit Court hearing on the Trump administration’s decision to delay the Chemical Disaster Rule. This rule updates a 1990s-era regulatory framework in order to better protect individuals from major industrial disasters. Under the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found multiple faults with the existing rules. Updates, however, were postponed under President Donald Trump and critical protections for communities living near industrial facilities were withdrawn.
It also follows multiple attempts by the Trump administration to eliminate the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. The agency is responsible for investigating major chemical fires, explosions, leaks, and other accidents.
Texas has suffered a series of plant explosions over the past few years. Most recently, the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby had two explosions early in the morning on August 31, after having lost power for days following Hurricane Harvey’s landfall. And in 2013, 15 people died in a fire at a fertilizer plant in West.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.
UPDATE: According to Cresson Mayor Cornett, investigators believe the fire was sparked after a worker “dragged his foot along the floor of the plant while chemicals were being mixed,” NBC reported. The worker caught fire from the waist up, Cornett said, and was airlifted with critical burn injuries to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. According to the man’s mother-in-law, he had only started working at the facility three weeks ago.