Thursday, 18 April 2013

Deadly explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant

Deadly explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant, A massive explosion at the West Fertilizer Company in West Texas Wednesday night killed at least five people and injured more than 160 prompting a major evacuation in a community of 2,600 reported CNN today, April 18.

The United States Geological Survey recorded the explosion as a 2.1-magnitude earthquake.

According to a witness reported in the Dallas Morning News, the plant first caught fire, and then exploded as firefighters were attempting to douse the flames.

Adair Grain Inc, the owner of the plant was investigated by the The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for failure to secure a permit, when a neighbor complained about an ammonia smell coming from the plant. Adair reportedly stored 54,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia, which along with nitric acid, is used to produce ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer, pesticide, and rodenticide.

An U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report shows that Adair was fined in 2006 for failing to have a risk management plan that met federal standards.

Firefighters at the scene Wednesday night were concerned about anhydrous ammonia. When exposed to humans, it can cause dehydration and severe burns. Exposoure to high concentrations can lead to death. The cause of the explosion remains under investigation.

One of the worst disasters in U.S. history involving fertilizer occured in April 1947 when a ship loaded with ammonium nitrate, a solid fertlizer composed of ammonia and nitrogen caught fire while docked in Texas City, Texas. The fire caused an explosion that damaged more than 1,000 buildings, according to the website of the Texas Historical Association.

The blast ignited a fire on a second ship docked in Galveston Bay that was also loaded with ammonium nitrate. With most of the city's fire fighters killed in the first blast, the fire burned for 16 hours and caused another huge explosion. Volunteers fought to put out subsequent blazes.

The historical association said almost 400 people were killed and more than 175 were listed as missing. Only a few bodies in the dock area were recovered.

Ammonium nitrate was also used in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

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