Officials push back on reports of explosions at flooded chemical plant in Texas

Officials in Texas early Thursday pushed back on reports of explosions at a flooded chemical plant near Houston.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said during a briefing that there was an "incident" at the plant.

"There was a release — we had a chemical reaction," he said. "This event had been expected and planned."

ADVERTISEMENT

He said organic peroxides of different grades were released, creating "a pop in the containers where they were being stored."

"Some gray smoke initially emanated from it and eventually turned into black smoke," he said. "It is not anything toxic. It is not anything we feel is a danger to the community at all."

He further clarified: "It wasn't an explosion. I want to be very clear. It was not an explosion."

A number of deputies were taken to a nearby hospital for testing, he said, as a precaution. 

"Our deputies, after seeing the smoke, did experience some kind of eye irritant, irritant around their eyes and their throat, and that's basically from the smoke," he said.

Arkema Inc. said in a statement earlier that it was notified of two explosions at its facility in Crosby, Texas, by the Harris County Emergency Operations Center about 2 a.m.

The company said in its statement that it is working with federal, state and local authorities to "manage the situation."

It said it followed its hurricane preparation plans in advance of the storm, but the "unprecedented flooding overwhelmed our primary power and two sources of emergency backup power."

The sheriff's office said in a tweet that the deputies were thought to have been exposed to a "non-toxic irritant."

The reported explosions come amid ongoing recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

The storm made landfall last week in Texas as a category 4 hurricane and again on Wednesday as a tropical storm.

Devastating flooding has displaced thousands of people, and the number of storm-related deaths continues to rise.

— This report was updated at 8:37 a.m.