By Ben DuBose
An explosion and subsequent fire ripped through
the Williams olefins plant on Thursday in Geismar,
Louisiana, leaving behind two deaths, about
73 injuries and forcing others in the area to
shelter-in-place or evacuate.
explosion happened at 8:37 a.m. local time and forced local
police to shut down roads leading to the plant, Williams
spokesman Tom Droege said. Emergency shutdown valves were closed, and resultant
fire had been isolated and diminished by 10:30 a.m. local time,
the company said.
Ambulances and helicopters transported those injured facility
to local hospitals and about 300 workers were evacuated from
the scene after the explosion, said Jean Kelly, spokeswoman for
the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.
Early tests didn't indicate dangerous levels of any
chemicals around the plant, Ms. Kelly said. The cause of the
explosion remains unknown.
"We are currently focused on the safety and well-being of our
employees, contractors and the local community who are
responding to the situation," said Mr. Droege.
Eight people were taken to Baton Rouge General Medical Center
and more than a dozen others were taken to St. Elizabeth
Hospital in nearby Gonzales, officials said. The number of
people with "significant injuries" appeared to be less than 10,
state police Sgt. J.B. Slaton said.
People within two miles of the Williams plant were
initially ordered to stay indoors, but were allowed to leave
their homes before noon, according to a spokesman for the
Ascension Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency
The Geismar plant produces 1.3 billion lb/year of ethylene
and 90 million lb/year of polymer-grade propylene,
though Williams was in the process of expanding the
plant's ethylene capacity. A company spokesperson wasn't
immediately available to answer questions about the expansion.
Geismar is located about 25 miles southeast of Baton
Photo courtesy of a local resident via Twitter.
Additional reporting information from Dow Jones