Houston explosion at manufacturing plant damages 450 structures, new assessment shows

Two workers and 20 other people were injured in the blast

Maria Hernandez climbs her stairwell as she and her family worked to move their belongings out as they sifted through their damaged home in Houston. (Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle via AP)

HOUSTON — An updated assessment released Monday of the impact of a massive explosion at a warehouse in Houston that killed two workers and injured 20 others shows that 450 structures, mostly homes, were damaged.

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The new total is more than double the initial assessment of about 200 damaged structures after the explosion early Friday at a building at Watson Grinding and Manufacturing. The company produces valves and thermal-spray coatings for equipment in various industries.

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Also Monday, the surviving family of one of the two workers killed filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Watson — the fourth lawsuit filed against the company in the wake of the blast.

Employees Frank Flores and Gerardo Castorena were killed in the explosion. Flores’ family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Watson alleging the company failed to provide a safe workplace and failed to enforce safety rules. The company declined to comment Monday.

Authorities say an additional 20 people were injured — two other warehouse workers and 18 others from neighboring homes and businesses. The cause is being investigated.

HOUSTON EXPLOSION AT MANUFACTURING PLANT LEAVES 2 DEAD, RATTLES HOMES MILES AWAY

Of the structures that were hit, 358 suffered minor damage, said Cory Stottlemyer, a spokesman for Houston’s Office of Emergency Management. Another 35 had major damage, including partial failures of a roof or walls, while 57 were affected, meaning they had mostly cosmetic damage, Stottlemyer said.

The American Red Cross said Monday that it expects to keep a recovery service center at a church open for the rest of the week. Red Cross officials said they have provided more than 200 emergency supplies and nearly 1,600 meals and snacks to residents, and caseworkers are connecting residents with community resources.

Dozens of volunteers helped residents this past weekend.

“We came out with lumber and able bodies to assist these folks. We cleaned up a lot of glass, boarded up a lot of windows, put a few tarps on and were able to just love on our neighbors a little bit,” said Trevor Barnett, the executive director of the Restoration Team, which is a network of churches dedicated to assisting families whose homes were damaged from flooding during Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

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Dylan Boots, 24, whose rental home is located just a few hundred feet from the blast site and was heavily damaged, said his shattered windows have been covered by plywood and an insurance adjuster was assessing the damage.

Boots said he believes several walls will have to be completely rebuilt and he's not sure he'll be able to live in his home while it’s being repaired.

“I hope I can stay, if not we’ll figure something out,” said Boots, an Army veteran. “Right now, I’m living in my house. I’m doing good, surviving.”