In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, a fire broke out in a chemical plant forcing the evacuation of residents living near the region.
The state of Texas in United States was hit by one of the deadliest hurricane’s in its history.
Houston is America’s fourth largest metro area. Harvey landed in costal Texas as a category 4 hurricane on August 26, 2017. Experts are still trying to decipher if climate change had a role to play in the formation of the hurricane and its size. As a result of the flooding, much of the city was buried under water. The National Weather Center reported, “This event is unprecedented and all impacts are unknown and beyond anything experienced.”
Thousands had to be rescued and many others were stranded. The death toll due to Hurricane Harvey has risen to 45 and there has been widespread property damage. According to Texas authorities more than 185,000 homes have been damaged and 9,000 have been destroyed. About 42,000 people are still seeking refuge in shelters.
The economy of Houston is based on its flourishing energy industry, particularly the oil sector. Houston is known as a world capital of the oil and gas industry with over 5,000 energy firms doing business in the region.
The Arkema chemical plant is around 33.5km from the city of Houston. The decision was made to shut down operations in the plant before the storm had made landfall. However, the heavy flooding affected the machinery in the plant. According to plant officials, the area had been completely surrounded by water. This resulted in the plant losing power. Additionally, the back-up generators were also flooded thus damaging them.
A fire appears to have broken out due to the flooding. Fumes began emerging from the plant. All residents who were living around 2.4km from the plant were immediately evacuated. Additionally, around 15 police officers who had been at the site to address the situation had to be admitted in the hospital for having inhaled the fumes.
An employee at the plant spoke to AFP noting, "It's the reaction we were expecting to happen. Measures have already been taken and the area has been evacuated and there's no people around."
According to media reports, the first of the nine containers caught fire and burned for nine hours at least.
The nation’s Environmental Protection Agency has struck a reassuring note stating, "EPA has emergency response personnel on the scene and the agency is currently reviewing data received from an aircraft that surveyed the scene early this morning. This information indicates that there are no concentrations of concern for toxic materials reported at this time."
However, experts have expressed fears that additional fires are likely to break out in the plant.
Our assessment is that if more fires break out in the chemical plant, it will pose a medical threat to the region in the immediate future.