Houston Explosion, Fire Leaves 2 Dead; Hundreds of Homes Damaged
An early morning explosion in northwestern Houston has left at least 2 dead and damaged an estimated 200 homes. As of 12:00 p.m. local time, some 20 people had been treated at area hospitals for what were described as minor and non-life-threatening injuries. Early reports suggest that 2 dead victims of the blast were Hispanic males, although it isn’t clear whether the men were employees of the facility where the explosion occurred. These same reports stated that at least one additional person was missing, although this has not been officially confirmed.
According to Houston Fire Department sources, the explosion occurred just before 4:30 a.m. at the Watson Grinding and Manufacturing facility located on the 4500 block of Gessner Road. The company website describes the facility as providing “… machining, grinding, lapping & thermal spray coatings …” services to other industries.
The explosion was heard and felt throughout the Houston area and temporarily produced a debris cloud that was picked up by a local doppler weather radar station. The Houston Fire and Police Departments have sealed off the immediate area affected by the blast, where some 200 residences are reported to have suffered damage ranging from shattered windows all the way to “red tag” structural damage. “Red tag” damage means that a building is structurally unsafe and unfit for use as a residence or business.
The exact cause of the explosion is unknown at this time. However, according to a report carried by KTRK-TV, a Watson Grinding and Manufacturing spokesman has said that the blast involved a propylene storage tank. Propylene is a highly-flammable gas that is used in a wide variety of industrial processes and is commonly stored as a liquid state under high pressure before being converted back into its gaseous state. In higher open-air concentrations (> 500 parts per million), the gas is a lung irritant and could affect those with breathing disorders such as chronic bronchitis or asthma. Propylene can also cause skin irritation, but usually only at much higher concentration.
Today’s explosion is the latest incident in the Houston metro area that has been linked to industrial gases. However, the latest incident differs from other explosions in that it occurred at a facility located within a working class neighborhood of 2- and 3-bedroom homes that were within ½ mile of the site of the blast. This proximity resulted in structural damage to residences that ranged from heavy to relatively minor, causing police and fire officials to order entire families to evacuate the area for an as yet to be determined period. In addition to property damage, there is also the issue of the immediate and possible long-term health effects of exposure to propylene gas.
Based on current medical knowledge, the health effects related to propylene gas exposure outside the site of the explosion are relatively minor. However, the long-term health effects of such exposure are not fully understood. Future advances in the long-term study of the effects of propylene gas exposure in humans will be of interest to all who may have been exposed to this gas.
Today’s industrial facility explosion differs from similar accidents in the Houston area in that 1) it did not involve the production of propylene gas from the refining of crude oil or other petroleum products and 2) it occurred within a residential area, with many homes located within ½ mile of the blast site. Since both injuries and property damage were directly related to the explosion, the facility owner may be liable for any injuries and other losses suffered by homeowners and residents.
If you were injured by the Watson explosion, or by any other refinery/industrial plant accident, we encourage you to contact the industrial accident lawyer at The Doan Law Firm to arrange a free, no obligation, review of your industrial plant injury case and discussion of the legal options that may be available to you.
When you contact our firm, your case review and consultation with our staff is always free of any charges and does not obligate you to hire us to represent you in court. Should you decide that a lawsuit is your best course of action, and that you would like for us to act as your legal counsel, we are willing to assume full responsibility for all aspects of preparing your case for trial in exchange for a percentage of the final settlement that we are prepared to win for you.
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