Marrero, LA Chemical Plant Explosion, Aug 1981

EXPLOSIONS, FIRE AT CELOTEX PLANT HURT 13.

Marrero, La. (UPI) - A spark from a forklift triggered a series of violent explosions and flash fires that ripped through a chemical plant, injuring 13 workers and forcing the evacuation of nearby residents, authorities said today.
Three workers were in critical condition today, six were listed as guarded but serious and four others were treated and released, said West Jefferson Hospital spokeswoman Connie Evans.
Ms. Evans would not comment on the extent of burns suffered by each worker, but another hospital spokeswoman said most of the injured were burned over 50 to 85 percent of their bodies.
"All are really burned pretty badly," Ms. Evans said. "It's all pretty serious burns."
The workers were injured when explosions Monday night at a Celotex Corp. plant ignited one naptha and asphalt storage tank and flames threatened to reach two other nearby tanks containing the highly flammable substances.
Celotex officials would not comment on the accident other than to say it still was being investigated. The explosions and fire did not damage plant buildings and the facility was open today.
The injured workers have said little about the blasts, Ms. Evans said.
"They're all very vague," she said. "It seems as though none of them know what happened - just all of a sudden there was an explosion. I don't think they know what hit them."
Firefighters cooled the tanks with flame-retardant foam and brought the blaze under control within two hours, Jefferson Parish sheriff's spokeswoman Colleen Landry said.
About 50 residents evacuated from the area returned to their homes early today.
"Fire people on the scene tell me that the danger of any more explosions is minimal and that the fire has been contained," Mrs. Landry said.
Hospitalized today were:
JOSE ORTIZ, 36.
GERALD HUNTER, 24.
BERNARD JACKSON, 19.
SULLIVAN HELTON, 21.
EDWARD JONES, 35.
CARL ROBERTSON, 29.
TONY STAMPS, 26.
DON TAYLOR, 30.
MELVIN BENNETT, 17.
"All of a sudden we heard a big kaboom, like an atomic bomb or something, and we turned around and we could feel the heat, like the fire was chasing us," said plant worker Martha Graham.

Logansport Pharos-Tribune Indiana 1981-08-04