Gas tanks explode at facility in Texas, US

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A dense cloud of smoke ascended from the site.
Image: steevithak.

Three people were hospitalized with injuries after a series of explosions at Southwest Industrial Gases, Inc., a gas facility in Dallas, Texas. None of their injuries are considered life-threatening.

Tanks of oxygen, helium and acetylene began to explode after a connector used to join acetylene tanks during the filling process malfunctioned. The explosions sent flaming debris into the air and onto buildings and expressways. Black smoke that could be seen for miles billowed from the facility. The problem began around 9:30 a.m CDT (UTC-5) at a loading dock, according to Dallas Fire Department Lt. Joel Lavender, and then spread to a trailer housing some 100,000 cubic feet (approximately 28,300 cubic metres) of gas.

Authorities evacuated an area that was one-half of a mile (approximately 800 m) wide. Portions of Interstate 35 and Interstate 30 were shut down. Flaming debris ignited small grass fires next to the roads. Tanks were reported to have landed as far away as four blocks.

Officials for the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as local and state environmental officials, have deemed air quality levels acceptable following the blast. Hazardous material crews have blocked water used in the fire from entering the Dallas storm drains.

"I just advised my teams to get out," said Eddy Parker of Airgas which operates right next to Southwest Industrial. "I didn’t really see anything other than the smoke. Then we turned and ran and just kept hearing explosions."

"Given the fact that there haven’t been any fatalities, it seems like our fire department and emergency responders did a great job. But we need to let the fire department look at why this is occurring there in that area," said City Councilman Steve Salazar.

Two of the injured men, Randal Bibb, 52, and Daniel McMurry, 56, were taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital to be treated for upper-body burns. The third, an unidentified truck-driver, was treated and released at Methodist Dallas Medical Center. He hurt his back when he jumped from the cab of his truck.