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‘Scariest sound ever’: Texas plant explosion sparks Thanksgiving evacuation

Texas chemical plant fire continues to burn
WATCH: Texas chemical plant fire continues to burn

Two massive explosions — mere hours apart — rocked a small southeastern Texas town on Wednesday, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes.

The first blast at the TPC Group plant in Port Neches, Texas, happened at around 1 a.m. Wednesday. It sparked a fire and sent a massive plume of black smoke into the sky.

Three workers were hurt in the initial blast, but have been since released from the hospital. The remaining 30 employees working at the time were unharmed.

Texas chemical plant in flames after explosion blows out windows from homes miles away
Texas chemical plant in flames after explosion blows out windows from homes miles away

The impact of the blast could be felt and heard in homes several kilometres away from the site. One person who lives about five kilometres away said the blast was “the scariest sound ever.”

Firefighters have been unable to fully access the petrochemical plant, leaving the scope of damage unclear.

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The county’s top official told local media it’s a miracle no one died.

Smoke and fire are visible from the TPC Group Port Neches Operations explosion on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019, in Port Neches, Texas.  (Marie D. De Jesus /Houston Chronicle via AP)
Smoke and fire are visible from the TPC Group Port Neches Operations explosion on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019, in Port Neches, Texas.  (Marie D. De Jesus /Houston Chronicle via AP)
(Marie D. De Jesus /Houston Chronicle via AP)
(Marie D. De Jesus /Houston Chronicle via AP)
Thick smoke fills the sky above the TPC plant. (Kim Brent/The Beaumont Enterprise via AP)
Thick smoke fills the sky above the TPC plant. (Kim Brent/The Beaumont Enterprise via AP)

Thirteen hours later, a series of secondary explosions sent a steel reactor tower high into the air.

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Black debris was reportedly floating in the air hours after the blasts, despite crews’ attempts to douse parts of the site with water.

“The black stuff floating — don’t touch it,” Troy Monk, the director of health, safety and security for TPC Group, told reporters.

Out of fear heat from the fire would further ignite chemical-filled tanks on-site, authorities ordered evacuations of more than 50,000 people living within a seven-kilometre radius.

The order came on the eve of the American Thanksgiving holiday. Officials were uncertain when all residents would be able to return.

Flames are seen after a massive explosion that sparked a blaze at a Texas petrochemical plant in Port Neches, Texas, November 27, 2019.  REUTERS/Erwin Seba
Flames are seen after a massive explosion that sparked a blaze at a Texas petrochemical plant in Port Neches, Texas, November 27, 2019.  REUTERS/Erwin Seba
Thick smoke fills the sky above the TPC plant as emergency response crews try to contain the fire that continued to burn throughout the morning following an overnight explosion in Port Neches, Texas. (Kim Brent/The Beaumont Enterprise via AP)
Thick smoke fills the sky above the TPC plant as emergency response crews try to contain the fire that continued to burn throughout the morning following an overnight explosion in Port Neches, Texas. (Kim Brent/The Beaumont Enterprise via AP)
Ray Moore trains his dog Aries with a cloud of smoke in the background from the TPC Group Port Neches Operations explosion. (Marie D. De Jesús/Houston Chronicle via AP)
Ray Moore trains his dog Aries with a cloud of smoke in the background from the TPC Group Port Neches Operations explosion. (Marie D. De Jesús/Houston Chronicle via AP)
Residents observe the fire consuming the TPC Group plant. (Marie D. De Jesús/Houston Chronicle via AP)
Residents observe the fire consuming the TPC Group plant. (Marie D. De Jesús/Houston Chronicle via AP)

The fire continued to burn on Thursday.

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Authorities say the fire is burning a chemical called butadiene, a colourless gas used to make synthetic rubber and other products.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said the compounds released in the smoky plume can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, as well as shortness of breath and nausea.

Air monitoring stations have been set up around the facility. As of now, officials tell ABC in Houston that all air quality levels are within federal and state guidelines.

Fire officials are determined to let the fire burn out. It was not clear as of Thursday morning when it could be extinguished.

Videos capture moment of second explosion at Texas plant
Videos capture moment of second explosion at Texas plant

Residents who have returned home are left to pick up the pieces. Many reported shattered windows and blown-off doors.

Police went door to door to check on residents and see if anyone was injured.

Wilma Shahan picks at shards of glass littering the bed after an explosion at the TPC plant shattered the window, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019, in Port Neches, Texas. (Kim Brent/The Beaumont Enterprise via AP)
Wilma Shahan picks at shards of glass littering the bed after an explosion at the TPC plant shattered the window, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019, in Port Neches, Texas. (Kim Brent/The Beaumont Enterprise via AP)
Adrian Torres pulls shards of glass from a window frame following an explosion at the TPC plant Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019, in Port Neches, Texas. (Kim Brent/The Beaumont Enterprise via AP)
Adrian Torres pulls shards of glass from a window frame following an explosion at the TPC plant Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019, in Port Neches, Texas. (Kim Brent/The Beaumont Enterprise via AP)
Robert and David Pool sweep up the glass filling the floor and tabletops at The Avenue Coffee Shop after the business’ front windows shattered following an explosion at the TPC plant. (Kim Brent/The Beaumont Enterprise via AP)
Robert and David Pool sweep up the glass filling the floor and tabletops at The Avenue Coffee Shop after the business’ front windows shattered following an explosion at the TPC plant. (Kim Brent/The Beaumont Enterprise via AP)
The Yellow Rose antique store owner Ellen Warner measures the frame where a storefront window shattered caused by the explosion. (Kim Brent/The Beaumont Enterprise via AP)
The Yellow Rose antique store owner Ellen Warner measures the frame where a storefront window shattered caused by the explosion. (Kim Brent/The Beaumont Enterprise via AP)
A boarded-up window bears a message for TPC Group as residents and business owners throughout Port Neches, Texas clean up from the damage. (Kim Brent/The Beaumont Enterprise via AP)
A boarded-up window bears a message for TPC Group as residents and business owners throughout Port Neches, Texas clean up from the damage. (Kim Brent/The Beaumont Enterprise via AP)

— With files from The Associated Press and Reuters

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