Louisiana Chemical Plant Explosion Kills One, Injures 30

At least one person was killed and 77 others injured in a chemical plant explosion and fire in Louisiana.  

The blast occurred Thursday morning at Williams Olefins chemical plant in Geismar, located about 10 miles south of Baton Rouge.

For two hours after the initial explosion residents in the surrounding area were told to stay in their homes, but investigators say they believe there is no danger from chemicals released by the fire.

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State police indicate that any chemicals released were burned off by the fire and that there appears to be no immediate threat to the public. The cause of the explosion is still under investigation.

The fire burned for three hours after the initial blast and was fueled by propylene, which is used as a food and tobacco preservative, and as a solvent for a number of pharmaceuticals. It is also used as aircraft de-icing fluid and automotive antifreeze.

State police have identified the one fatality as a 29 year-old employee at the plant, as were most, if not all, of those who were injured. As of Thursday evening 51 of the 77 people hospitalized due to injuries caused by the fire and explosion had been released. Three remained hospitalized in critical condition.

About 300 workers had to be evacuated from the plant during the fire. Many were seen running for their lives as the fire raged. A few stayed behind in a safe room to shut down parts of the plant.

The plant is located between Baton Rouge and New Orleans; a corridor known for its petrochemical plants and refineries. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the area is the region in the United States with the most toxic oil spills and releases.

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