Sugar silos at centre of Georgia, US refinery blast that killed 13 demolished

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The three silos in question can be seen in this picture taken by investigators at the scene, behind the remnants of the sugar packaging building.

The three 100 foot reinforced concrete sugar storage silos around which the investigation into the 2008 Georgia sugar refinery explosion is centred have been demolished. The February industrial disaster killed 13 people when the Imperial Sugar refinery at Port Wentworth, United States exploded.

The initial investigation concluded the disaster to have been a dust explosion that ignited under the silos, but investigators from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) have been hampered as OSHA declared them to be unsafe after the accident.

A 7,000lb wrecking ball has now been brought in and demolished the structures, which were 18 inches thick. This will allow access for investigators, and make way for replacement silos and a new sugar packaging building, which are scheduled to be in place by Summer 2009. The refinery hopes to restart sugar processing by the end of the year.

Imperial vice president Brian Harrison, who is overseeing reconstruction at the site, said of the move "Several people have indicated to me it's a passage from the old to the new and a significant sign of the progress we're making to rebuild."

2.8 million pounds of fire-hardened sugar were still present in one silo, and 500,000 pounds in another. Imperial brought in a crane with a bucket to retrive this and intends to recycle it for ethanol production.

Four workers are still hospitalised after the explosion, three in critical condition. The disaster is also blamed for a $15.5 million loss Imperial posted in this year's first quarter.


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