An explosion at a liquefied natural gas storage facility near downtown Dallas, Texas this morning has shut down two major interstates and forced the evacuation of hundreds of people within a half-mile radius of the plant. At least two people have been confirmed seriously injured as a result of the explosion at the gas storage facility. Danger from ongoing explosions has been preventing rescue workers from getting close enough to help others who might have been injured in the blast.
Starting at around 9:30 a.m., a series of loud explosions were heard coming from Southwest Industrial Gases, which stores propane and liquefied natural gas. Witnesses a mile away from the blast site described flaming shrapnel falling from the sky. Several cars were on fire. Buildings rattled with each explosion, and one bystander said that he thought it was artillery fire. A cloud of black smoke billowed into the air, and could be seen 10 miles away. Witnesses also described an acrid odor that hung in the air throughout the morning.
The explosions were so dangerous that firefighters were not able to get close to the scene. They set up command posts about three blocks from the burning facility. Video footage taken by a Dallas TV station showed small fires burning around the plant. There were gas cylinders on fire, and many more in the facility were in danger of exploding.
The Southwest Industrial plant is close to the Dallasâ€™ main jail and criminal court buildings. So far, jail officials have chosen not to evacuate, as the jail is on the far edge of the evacuated area. The nearby headquarters of the SPCA of Texas, which houses an animal shelter and offices, evacuated its employees. The SPCA also said it was moving about 300 animals to the north side of complex, which is further away from the blast. Dallas police have closed Interstate 30 and Interstate 35, two of the cityâ€™s most heavily traveled corridors.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it was sending a crew to monitor air quality in the area, and Dallas officials said that the cityâ€™s HAZMAT team would be sent to the site as soon as it was safe.