Tens of thousands of people in southeast Texas were ordered to evacuate their homes after multiple explosions at a chemical plant, according to multiple reports.
The explosions occurred at Texas Petroleum Chemical plant in Port Neches, about 90 miles east of Houston near the Louisiana state line, The New York Times reports. The BBC reports TPC processes chemicals used to make rubber and resins.
The Times reports at least eight people were injured in the explosions, which shattered the windows of nearby homes, sent debris flying through the air and caused plumes of fire to shoot high into the sky.
At a Wednesday night press conference, Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick said there were no fatalities, CBS reports.
“We’re extremely grateful that nobody was killed,” he said.
The outlet reports the first explosion occurred just after 1 a.m. on Wednesday. Its impact could be felt up to 30 miles away, and toxic plumes could be seen for miles by daybreak.
On Wednesday afternoon, there was a second major explosion, which launched a tower at the plant in the air “like a missile,’ Branick said. There were also minor explosions throughout the day.
After the second large explosion, officials issued a mandatory evacuation order for everyone within a four-mile radius of the plant.
It is not yet known what caused the blasts, and officials have not said when evacuated people might return home.
CBS reports there have been multiple petrochemical industry explosions in Texas in 2019, including one in Crosby in April that killed a worker.
Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said there was an “unacceptable trend of significant incidents” in the region, the BBC reports.
Bailey Dykes, who fled with relatives from Port Neches to her brother’s home in nearby Beaumont, told the Times on Wednesday, “Who knows what we’re going to do for Thanksgiving tomorrow, but we’re still preparing.”
In a statement, TPC said: “We cannot speak to the cause of the incident or the extent of damage,” Reuters reports.
“Right now, our focus is on protecting the safety of responders and the public, and minimizing any impact to the environment,” the company added.