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Hurricane Harvey devastation causes multiple chemical explosions
An explosion took place at a power plant near Houston on Thursday morning. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Hurricane Harvey devastation causes multiple chemical explosions

A chemical power plant that refrigerates explosive, heat-sensitive chemicals in Crosby, Texas, had two explosions at approximately 2 a.m. Thursday as a result of power and backup generator failure, NBC reported. The massive flooding from the storm caused the power failure, despite the company's efforts to adequately prepare for Hurricane Harvey.

The backstory

After the initial power failure took place Sunday, the 11 employees who were to ride out the storm at the Arkema power plant transferred products from the cold-storage warehouses to diesel-powered refrigerated containers. Although the containers were compromised due to flooding, the company continued to remotely monitor them.

When authorities received word of the problem, the Harris County Fire Marshals decided to evacuate residents within a 1.5-mile radius of the plant.

The warning and explosion

Janet Smith, a spokesperson for Arkema,told the Associated Press on Wednesday that an explosion was going to occur.

"The fire will happen. It will resemble a gasoline fire. It will be explosive and intense in nature," Smith said. "As the temperature rises, the natural state of these materials will decompose. A white smoke will result, and that will catch fire. So the fire is imminent. The question is when."

According to Richard Rowe, chief executive officer of Arkema's North America unit, a fire would not cause any "long-term harm or impact," CNBC reported.

Since the explosion, Arkema has worked with local and federal officials on managing the current fire. They have determined that the best course of action is to let the fire burn.

"It's a concerning situation, yes," Harris County Fire Marshal spokeswoman Rachel Moreno told the Associated Press. "But the facility is surrounded by water right now so we don't anticipate the fire going anywhere."

Injuries related to the fire

Within two hours of the explosion, Harris County Sheriff's officers were dispatched to close off roads in the area and fire crews were sent to the scene, the Houston Chronicle reported.

According to a tweet the sheriff's office sent early Thursday morning, one deputy was taken to the hospital for inhaling fumes. An additional nine officers drove themselves to the hospital as a precaution.

Harris County Sheriff's Office spokesman Jason Spencer said the deputy who was taken to the hospital had trouble breathing after driving through a cloud of smoke.

"What we were told is that the fumes from this chemical were not life-threatening," Spencer told the Chronicle. "I don't think any of our deputies are in a life-threatening situation."

Additional explosions expected

The company anticipates up to six additional explosions, Chronicle reported.

"We want local residents to be aware that product is stored in multiple locations on the site, and a threat of additional explosion remains," Arkema said in a statement, NBC reported. "We have been working closely with public officials to manage the implications of this situation. As agreed with public officials, the best course of action is to let the fire burn itself out."

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