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Large fire, smoke erupts at Houston-area chemical plant

By Eric DuVall and Danielle Haynes
Large fire, smoke erupts at Houston-area chemical plant
The Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, was the site of multiple chemical eruptions since early Thursday morning. Photo courtesy Arkema/Facebook

Sept. 1 (UPI) -- A Houston-area chemical plant that lost power due to Hurricane Harvey erupted in flames and a large cloud of smoke Friday evening, local authorities said.

The Arkema chemical plant -- located in Crosby, Texas, just east of Houston -- first let off a series of chemical explosions early Thursday morning, sparking flames and a 40-foot plume of smoke -- prompting Harris County Fire Marshal's Office to order the evacuation hundreds of residents within 1.5 miles of the facility.

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Other small fires and explosions continued Thursday and early Friday. Later Friday, though, visible flames and a large, dark plume of smoke could be seen coming from the site.

One local resident said they heard a series of "popping" noises coming from the plant early Friday for about 15 minutes. Fire Marshal spokeswoman Rachel Moreno said the noise was made by additional chemical reactions, but they did not lead to fire.

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Several deputies were hospitalized after being exposed to a plume of black smoke Thursday, but were later released.

The company has not said specifically what chemicals are being stored at the facility, though Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long called the plume of smoke that was generated "incredibly dangerous."

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The chemicals have been described as "organic peroxides."

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Emergency crews continue to monitor the site, as additional eruptions are possible.

Harvey knocked out the plant's primary power source and two backup generators were flooded. Workers moved the chemicals to refrigerated storage vans in an attempt to lessen the damage, but told the Chronicle the vans would inevitably fail because they are not designed to permanently hold the chemicals at a proper temperature.

The plant has been shut down since before Harvey arrived a week ago.

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