‘THE QUESTION IS WHEN’ Chemical plant outside Houston could explode, company says

A flooded chemical plant in a small town outside Houston was poised to explode, a spokeswoman for the French company that operates it said late Wednesday, though the timing and extent of the danger weren’t immediately clear.

The Arkema Inc. plant in Crosby — about 25 miles northeast of Houston — lost power Sunday and its backup generators amid Harvey’s days-long deluge, leaving it without refrigeration for chemicals that become volatile as the temperature rises.

“The fire will happen. It will resemble a gasoline fire. It will be explosive and intense in nature,” spokeswoman Janet Smith told the Associated Press.

There was “no way to prevent” the explosion, CEO Rich Rowe said earlier Wednesday.

In its most recently available submission from 2014, Arkema said potentially 1.1 million residents could be affected over an area of 23 miles in a worst case, according to information compiled by a nonprofit group and posted on a website hosted by the Houston Chronicle.

But, Arkema added, it was using “multiple layers of preventative and mitigation measures” at the plant, including steps to reduce the amount of substances released, and that made the worst case “very unlikely.”

Rowe told Reuters that the company has no way to prevent the explosion because the plant is swamped by six feet of water….

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