By Sracey Plaisance
The Associated Press
GEISMAR, La. — A ground-rattling explosion Thursday at a chemical plant in Louisiana ignited a blaze that killed one person and injured dozens of others, authorities said. Witnesses described a chaotic scene of flames as high as 200 feet into the air and workers scrambling over gates to escape the plant.
A thick plume of black smoke rose from the plant after the blast even after the fire was extinguished. At a roadblock several miles away where family members waited anxiously to hear about loved ones, flames were still easily visible above the trees even hours later.
Louisiana’s health department said 77 people were treated at hospitals, with 51 being released by the evening. Hospitals reported that workers mostly had burns, cardiac and respiratory issues and bruises, health department spokeswoman Christina Stephens said.
A body was found by hazardous materials crews going through the aftermath of the blast at the facility, state police Capt. Doug Cain said. Police identified the man killed as Zachary C. Green, 29, of Hammond.
The company said the blast happened at 8:37 a.m. By the afternoon, all of the plant’s more than 300 workers had been accounted for, Cain said. The plant, owned by The Williams Companies Inc., is in an industrial area of Geismar.
The Williams facility is one of scores of chemical and industrial facilities that dot the riverside between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. A few homes and four other plants are within two miles, said Lester Kenyon, spokesman for Ascension Parish government.