(UPI) — Two small explosions and a fire were reported at the Arkema chemical plant near Houston early Thursday, sending out black smoke that was inhaled by 10 police officers.
Arkema said authorities were notified about the blasts at the plant, located in Crosby, around 2 a.m.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office said the smoke inhaled by the 10 deputies near the plant is believed to be a non-toxic irritant. One deputy was taken to the hospital, while nine others drove themselves to the hospital as a precaution.
“People in immediate area had previously been evacuated,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez wrote on Twitter. “Will advise if there is risk to broader perimeter.”
Authorities said the injured deputy had respiratory problems after driving through a plume of smoke, but is expected to recover.
“What we were told is that the fumes from this chemical were not life-threatening,” HCSO spokesman Jason Spencer told the Houston Chronicle. “I don’t think any of our deputies are in a life-threatening situation.”
“Organic peroxides are extremely flammable and, as agreed with public officials, the best course of action is to let the fire burn itself out,” the company said in a statement. “We want local residents to be aware that product is stored in multiple locations on the site, and a threat of additional explosion remains.”
The Arkema facility lost primary power on Wednesday from the effects of Hurricane Harvey, as well as two sources of emergency backup power.
The company evacuated personnel and the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office said residents within a 1.5-mile radius were told to leave.
Arkema’s Crosby facility makes organic peroxides, which it says is used in a variety of products — including pharmaceuticals and construction materials. Organic peroxides burn and could spark a fire if not stored under the right temperatures.
Houston officials say at least 37 deaths related to Hurricane Harvey have occurred since the storm made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane last weekend. Nearly 50,000 Texas homes have been damaged or destroyed by flooding and high winds.
More than 33,000 people are being held in official shelters, though it is not known how many remain trapped in homes and vehicles, particularly in inaccessible areas.
Copyright 2016 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.