Explosions reported at flooded chemical plant near Houston

CROSBY, Texas — Two explosions and plumes of black smoke were reported Thursday at a flooded chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, near Houston, officials said.

One deputy was hospitalized after he inhaled fumes from the Arkema peroxide plant, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said.

Nine others drove themselves to the hospital as a precaution, the sheriff’s office said.

But the smoke the 10 deputies inhaled is believed to be a nontoxic irritant, the sheriff’s office said.

The explosions were reported around 1 a.m. MDT.

The facility, which is between Houston and Beaumont, had been closely monitored after plant officials said they expected a chemical reaction that will likely cause a fire that will “resemble a large gasoline fire.”

The thick black smoke from the explosions “might be irritating to the eyes, skin and lungs,” Arkema officials said in a statement.

The scope of the explosions is still unknown.

The company shut down the facility as Harvey approached last week and evacuated employees as well as residents within 1 1/2 miles of plant as a precaution after it was flooded under more than 5 feet of water.

After sitting without power and refrigeration for days, the chemicals at the facility heated up and eventually burned, causing the explosions. It was a matter of time before a fire started, the company had said.

“The high water and lack of power leave us with no way to prevent it,” Rich Rowe, Arkema’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

The company has said there’s a small possibility that the organic peroxide, which is used in the production of plastic resins, will get into floodwaters “but it will not ignite and burn.”

The flooding in southeast Texas has severely affected oil and chemical plants. Many have shut down operations in the past few days, including, the Colonial Pipeline, which carries huge amounts of gasoline and other fuel between Houston and the East Coast.

Valero and Motiva, the largest refinery in the country, have also closed some facilities.