UPDATE: Authorities have confirmed 77 people were injured in the explosion and fire.
UPDATE: Williams has confirmed that 1 person, operator Zachary Green, was killed in the explosion and fire at the Geismar plant.
More than 30 people have been injured in an explosion at a petrochemical plant in Geismar, Louisiana, a town about 20 miles southeast of Baton Rouge. Workers were transported by ambulance, and a small handful by medical helicopter, to nearby hospitals after the blast. Plumes of black smoke were reported rising from the facility, and homes and businesses in the area were immediately ordered to evacuate or shelter in place.
The explosion occurred at approximately 8:37am Thursday morning, with witnesses reporting a ball of fire and ground shakes. Workers were reportedly seen climbing the facility’s gates and running from the plant. Flames from the resulting fire could be seen for miles.
Fire burning at the plant was brought under control within a few hours. First responders remain on the scene, and an investigation into the cause of the blast is pending. Early chemical tests have shown no amounts of dangerous chemicals in the air, but an order to remain indoors has been put in place.
The plant is owned by Tulsa-based Williams Corporation. The company released a statement, in part saying “We are currently focused on the safety and well-being of our employees, contractors and the local community who are responding to the situation. Emergency shut-down valves have been closed. The unit is isolated.”
Roads to the plant have been closed by authorities in the area.