Explosion at New Iberia, Louisiana Chemical Plant Forces Evacuations

A massive fire that started yesterday at the Multi-Chem Corp. plant in New Iberia, Louisiana will be allowed to burn itself out. The fire followed several explosions at the facility yesterday afternoon, and caused evacuations, but no injuries. Investigators have not been able to enter the burning facility to determine the cause of the plant explosion.

The Multi-Chem Corp. plant, located about 75 miles west of New Orleans, blends and stores chemicals for oilfield operations, according to an Associated Press report. The first of several explosions at the facility occurred around 4 p.m. local time. According to a report from the Daily Iberian, residents said the explosions sounded like thunder, and flames from the fire could be seen above the tree line. Plumes of dark gray and white smoke could be seen as far away as the Port of Iberia.

Following the blast, the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office requested that residents living within one mile of the facility evacuate the area. The Red Cross set up an evacuation center at Cyr-Gates Community Center. It is not yet known when the evacuated residents will be allowed to return home.

According to a report in The Daily Advertiser, the evacuation zone also included the New Iberia Research Center, where as many as 200 employees had to evacuate. Around 7,000 primates at the center were unharmed by the explosion.

Other residents of New Iberia were asked to stay inside their homes with windows and doors clothes, and air conditioning turned off.

According to the Daily Iberian, the Acadiana Regional Airport’s control tower closed at approximately 5:30 p.m. The landing strip is open, but pilots are “landing at their own risk.”

While some injuries were reported early on, that turned out not to be the case. Authorities are now reporting that all workers at the Multi-Chem Corp. plant were accounted for, and no one was sent to hospital.

It is not known yet what chemicals were present at the plant when the explosions occurred. But officials said the public would be provided that information as soon as it becomes available.

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