Emergency officials in Texas issued a mandatory evacuation order for the area within 4 miles of a Port Neches chemical plant after a second explosion rocked the facility Wednesday afternoon.
Black smoke was still billowing out of TPC Group’s Port Neches Operations site Wednesday evening, nearly a full day after an overnight explosion started a fire that burned throughout the day.
Three workers were injured, according to the company.
It wasn’t immediately clear how long the evacuation order would remain in effect. About 50,000 people live in the evacuated area, local media reported.
The 218-acre Port Neches facility is located next to the Sabine Naches River, about a 90-minute drive east from Houston.
The plant produces more than 900 million pounds of material per year, according to TPC Group. That includes butadiene, a gas used for a variety of synthetic materials like rubber and nylon. TPC Group warns that butadiene is extremely flammable and may explode if heated. It also may cause genetic defects and cancer.
Firefighters at the scene appeared to be working to cool storage tanks that local media reported contained butadiene.
TPC Group says that it produces about 35 percent of the butadiene in North America between the Port Neches plant and another facility in Houston.
More than 200 people work at the facility, including about 175 full-time employees and 50 contractors, according to the company. There were about 30 employees working at the time of the explosion, The Associated Press reported.