Flames from a massive chemical plant fire in southeastern Texas have finally been contained, 48 hours after twin explosions rocked the Gulf Coast, officials said Friday.
“We are in a position to say it’s contained,” Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick told reporters near the TPC Group plant in Port Neches Texas, about 90 miles east of Houston. "We feel comfortable with the efforts that have been made by our firefighters."
While the fires still haven't been completely extinguished, officials said they have a handle on flames that have been burning since Wednesday.
"We still have active fires. We are confident the fires have been contained," TPC Group Director of Health Safety and Security Troy Monk told reporters on Friday.
"I would love to tell you that we were going to be done by the end of the day. I would not be telling you the truth if I made that statement. If is very difficult for us to quantify, in days, how long this is going to take."
A mandatory evacuation for 50,000 people was also lifted for neighbors of the TPC Group.
"If we anticipated another explosion, we would not be lifting this evacuation order," Branick said.
The blasts happened near where TPC makes butadiene, a chemical used to make synthetic rubber and other products, company officials have said.
The blasts, which happened at 1 a.m. Wednesday and then 13 hours later, injured three employees, shattered windows, ripped doors off hinges and sent debris flying for miles.
Monk warned residents not to touch any debris and to be especially careful if they see white, chalky material — which could be asbestos from the 1940s-era plant.
“Any debris or any suspected debris needs to be left alone,” Monk said. “Any debris that you have is potentially contaminated debris and there’s two issues. One, we don’t want anyone that’s not qualified to remove that material to remove it and expose themselves and two, this debris, if it contaminated, has to be disposed of properly.”