Corpus Christi, TX Grain Elevator Blast, Apr 1981
Spokesman Vince Hefley of Spohn Hospital said two people remained hospitalized there today.
MANUEL DE LOS SANTOS was in critical but stable condition with head, neck and abdomen injuries and burns; and JESUS LOPEZ was in good condition after surgery for a compound arm fracture and he also had burns.
The force of the explosion tore gaping hopes in 10-story-high grain silos, hurled glass and huge chunks of concrete and left mangled sections of the elevator walls dangling from twisted girders and reinforcement rods. One official estimated the damage at $30 million.
Some of the bleeding and burned casualties stumbled out of the rubble, others had to be dug out from beneath the debris by rescue workers. An emergency medical technician, who asked not to be identified, said there were bodies laying all over the ground.
"It looked like a 'Nam clearing station," he said.
"Nobody had time to scream."
Flames ignited by the blast and fanned by 35 mph winds sent thick, black clouds of smoke billowing 500 feet into the air and troubled firefighters who warned bystanders about the possibility of additional explosions.
The fire still was burning early today, although firefighters said they had isolated the flames to one section of the silos. Acting Fire Chief E. E. Irwin said the fire would be allowed to burn itself out.
City Manager Marvin Townsend said the explosion was triggered by an accumulation of highly flammable grain dust. But officials had not determined what sparked the blast.
"The cause will probably remain hidden in all that rubble for some time. Grain dust is very volatile, anything can ignite it," said Don Rodman, a public affairs officer for the port of Corpus Christi.
The explosion came during a shift change and Rodman said officials estimated 50 to 51 people were near the elevator when it exploded. He said the three missing men included two elevator employees and a security guard.
An explosion at the same elevator in 1968 killed one person and caused $2 million in damage, officials said.
Tuesday's blast damaged 75 per cent of the structure built in 1952-53 and would cause an estimated $30 million to repair, said engineering director Nolan Rhodes.
"It will probably have to be torn down and rebuilt
it is that extensively fractured," said Rodman.
He said $3 million to $4 million had been spent in the last three years to modify and improve the dust collection and emmission control mechanisms. The facility had added new safety equipment as late as March of 1980.