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Harvey sparks blasts at Texas chemical plant

Reuters / Khmer Times Share:
A woman walks down a flooded road during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas. AFP

LAKE CHARLES/CROSBY (Reuters) – The remnants of Tropical Storm Harvey drenched northern Louisiana yesterday as it moved inland, leaving behind record flooding that paralysed the US energy hub of Houston, killed at least 35 people and drove tens of thousands from their homes.

Two explosions were reported at a flood-hit chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, 48 km northeast of Houston, with one sheriff’s deputy sent to the hospital after inhaling toxic chemicals.The Arkema SA plant, which local media said was flooded and accessible only by boat, had lost power as a result of the storm, causing organic peroxides stored there to warm to dangerous levels. When the chemicals exploded, toxic gas and smoke were released.

A 2.4km radius around the plant had been evacuated and the company urged people to stay away from the area, warning further blasts were likely.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said, “The plume is incredibly dangerous.”

The storm’s death toll was rising as bodies were found in receding waters. Some 32,000 people were forced into shelters since Harvey came ashore on Friday near Rockport, Texas, as the most powerful hurricane to hit the state in a half-century.

Yesterday, the storm was downgraded to a tropical depression, located about 24km south of Monroe, Louisiana. Rivers and reservoirs in Texas and Louisiana remained at or near flood level, with officials warning that high water would remain a danger in the region for the next few days.

Federal officials also had already rescued 10,000 people form flooded homes and would continue to search, Mr Brock said.

The Houston Fire Department was to rescue stranded survivors and recover bodies yesterday.

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