At least two people were injured when a petrochemical plant exploded in Alsip, Illinois on Friday. The blast and subsequent fire could be heard and seen for miles.
The explosion occurred at the Blue Island Phenol plant in Blue Island, about 20 miles south of Chicago, according to WGN television.
A chemical leak was what led to the explosion and fire Friday afternoon. Reports say the chemical leak started around 11:30 a.m.
WGN Television reports, “the explosion forced Kedzie to shut down in both directions from 127th to 135th, and 131st is closed from Western to Kedzie.”
The two injured were rushed to Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, and all other employees at the plant have been accounted for, the television station said.
The blaze, which was a huge one, was battled immediately by firefighters and it is believed any residual chemicals burned in the fire.
The extent of the injuries are not immediately known, but the two people, believed to be workers at the plant, suffered burns. said Mayor Domingo Vargas, from nearby Blue Island, Ill.
Three chemicals — propane, propylene and benzene — ignited around 11:25 a.m., according to Alsip Fire Chief Tom Styczynski.
The plant also manufactures acetone and phenol, ingredients used to manufacture some herbicides, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
Luckily, the plant had a “deluge system — a type of high-volume fire sprinkler that dumps a large volume of water in an area all at once — which did much to put out the initial fire.” Styczynski said.
In a previous mishap with this chemical company, it was forced to sign an agreement with the Illinois Attorney General’s office, making them responsible to hire a licensed engineering firm to ensure that the accident did not leak chemicals into groundwater, contaminating it due to the runoff of water used to extinguish the fire.
The company said the fire erupted after a storm caused a power outage at the plant. Without power, cooling and circulation systems in the phenol unit failed, causing the temperature and pressure inside the phenol unit’s oxidizers to rise, starting a chemical fire.
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