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One Dead, Dozens Hurt In Louisiana Chemical Plant Explosion

The plant on fire after it reportedly exploded Thursday in the town of Geismar, La.
Ryan Meador
The plant on fire after it reportedly exploded Thursday in the town of Geismar, La.

(This post last updated at 8:30 p.m. ET)

An explosion touched off a fire at a Louisiana petrochemical plant, killing at least one person and injuring more than 70 others, officials say.

State Police reported one person dead in the calamity at the Williams Olefins chemical plant in Geismar, La. The blast also injured 77 other people, Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals said Thursday evening, reports The Times-Picayune.

Of those injured, 51 people have already been discharged from care. But six people remain in hospitals, three of them in intensive care, The Times-Picayune reports.

The figures update an announcement earlier today, when Gov. Bobby Jindal said 73 people had been injured.

Here's our original post:

The Associated Press quoted Department of Environmental Quality spokeswoman Jean Kelly as saying helicopters had taken three or four people from the plant and ground ambulances took 30.

The fire started Thursday morning at The Williams Olefins plant in Geismar, about 20 miles southeast of Baton Rouge, says Louisiana State Police Capt. Doug Cain.

The plant can produce 1.35 billion pounds of ethylene and 90 million pounds of polymer grade propylene a year, according to the company's website. Both ethylene and propylene are intermediates used to produce other chemical and plastic products.

Update at 3:35 p.m. ET. Governor Says 73 Injured

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal says one person has been killed and 73 injured.

Jindal told reporters that government monitors have not detected dangerous levels of emissions from the explosion.

Update at 2:20 p.m. ET. Police Report At Least One Death

State Police are reporting at least one person has been killed in the explosion and fire, which was put out by late morning. One of the injured is listed in critical condition.

Update at 1:35 p.m. ET. Witness: People Running From Plant

Daniel Cuthbertson, a fuel truck operator, said he witnessed workers scrambling over gates and running from the plant when they heard the explosion, which shook the ground and was followed by a "ball of fire," according to the AP.

The Williams Companies said an explosion occurred at 8:37 a.m. CST and that the flow of chemicals to the fire had been cut off by 10 a.m.

In a statement on its website, the company said it is "focused on the safety and well-being" of its employees:

"Our emergency-response crews are thoroughly trained to respond to these types of incidents and are diligently performing their work with their first priority being the safety and well-being of people in and around the area.

"First responders are on the scene and local routes to the plant have been closed by the local authorities.

"We are in the process of accounting for all personnel. Injuries have been reported, the number and extent of those injuries is not known at this point."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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