Explosion at Texas refinery kills 14, injures more than 100

Thursday, March 24, 2005

A huge explosion at the third-largest oil refinery in the United States killed at least 14 workers and injured more than 100 others at about 1:30 p.m. local time (19:30 UTC) on Wednesday, in Texas City, Texas.

The blast caused extensive damage to the BP facility, left a large crater in the ground, and flung chunks of burnt metal onto cars and trucks in the employee parking lot. Windows and lights shattered in homes and other buildings miles from the blast location. A massive cloud of black smoke hovered over the sky.

"It was real scary," refinery worker Charles Gregory told the Associated Press. "Have you ever hear the thunder real loud? It was like 10 times that," he said.

Authorities do not suspect that the explosion was caused by terrorism, but have not yet determined the cause of the blast. Federal investigators have been sent to the site, according to Daniel Horowitz, the director of public affairs for the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board.

"We have no reason to believe this was anything caused by an outside agent," said BP spokesman Hugh Depland.

The 1,200-acre facility employs 1,800 workers, and outputs three percent of the oil supply for the United States (almost half a million barrels a day). The western side of the facility directly affected by the blast makes high-grade fuel.

Firefighters worked for over two hours to fight blazes caused by the explosion.

Company officials have not yet announced how long production will be suspended at the refinery. Gasoline futures began trading higher at an all-time peak of $1.60 a gallon during after-hours trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, but retreated to $1.58 later in the evening.

"It's a sad day for BP," said site director Don Parus.

Texas City last suffered a major accident in April 1947, when a ship filled with ammonium nitrate exploded, killing about a third of the town's population, and injuring about 5,000 others.

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