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Evacuation order lifted two days after Texas chemical plant blasts

By Ben Hooper

Nov. 29 (UPI) -- The mandatory evacuation order for a 4-mile radius around a Texas chemical plant was lifted Friday, two days after a series of explosions at the facility.

Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick, who issued the evacuation order Wednesday after a series of explosions at the TPC Group plant in Port Neches, said Friday the fires at the plant were contained but not yet extinguished.

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Branick said the evacuation order, which involved the cities of Port Neches, Groves, Nederland and Port Arthur, was lifted Friday and TCP would continue working to put out the remaining fires.

Eight people were treated for injuries related to the blasts and later released. Three of the injured were TPC employees, a spokesman for the company confirmed.

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TPC Group, which processes crude oil into products for the petroleum and chemical industry, said the initial blast occurred around 1 a.m. Wednesday at a "processing unit" in the plant, located, about 85 miles northeast of downtown Houston. A second blast rocked the plant around 12 hours later.

Environmental authorities said chemical levels in the air around the plant were found to be below concentrations that would raise health concerns, but Branick warned residents to keep watch for chunks of asbestos that may have been sent airborne by the explosions.

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Residents and business owners near the plant reported the blast shattered windows and blew doors off their hinges, leaving scattered damage in its wake. Port Neches is a city of about 13,000 residents near the Texas-Louisiana border.

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The company's website says the Port Neches plant has more than 175 full-time employees.

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