1 dead, 33 injured in major explosion at Louisiana chemical plant

Posted at 11:54 AM, Jun 13, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-13 18:29:25-04

A plume of thick smoke rose over a Louisiana chemical plant Thursday after an explosion and fire that left at least one person dead and forced authorities to ask people as far as two miles away to stay inside to avoid exposure to potentially toxic fumes.

A dramatic image provided to CNN affiliate WAFB by a plant worker who did not want to be identified showed workers running from a towering orange column of flame ripping through part of the plant.

Aside from a controlled burn at the Williams Geismar plant, the fire was out, Louisiana State Police Trooper Jaren Sandifer told CNN.

Firefighters and a hazardous materials team were evaluating the situation, Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeffrey Wiley told reporters.

“We think we have a stable situation,” he said.

As Gov. Bobby Jindal traveled to the area to meet with emergency workers, authorities lifted the shelter-in-place order for nearby residents early Thursday afternoon. Four nearby chemical plans remained under a similar order, Ascension Parish spokesman Lester Kenyon told CNN.

At least one person died, Sandifer said.

A spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality earlier said 33 people had been hurt. It was unclear if the fatality was in addition to those injuries.