At least three people were taken to hospitals, and the blast outside Port Arthur on Wednesday blew out windows miles away, witnesses said.
An explosion at a chemical plant in southeastern Texas early on Wednesday injured at least three people and forced the evacuation of residents within half a mile of the site, a statement from the plant and a spokeswoman for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said.
The injured, who were not named but identified as “personnel” from the plant, were taken to hospitals.
The blast at the Texas Petroleum Chemical plant in Port Neches, near Groves, east of Houston, was reported around 1 a.m. Wednesday, according to a company statement.
“The event is ongoing,” the statement from the plant said, “but will be brought under control as quickly and safely as possible.” It added that the focus was on protecting the public and emergency workers, and “minimizing any impact to the environment.”
The explosion was reported in the predawn hours in the Port Neches-Groves area of Texas, which is home to multiple chemical plants. The blast is one in a list of chemical explosions or fires in recent years at plants cloistered in areas of oil-friendly Texas that have renewed concerns about health and safety regulations, and effects on the environment.
Earlier this year, a disastrous fire burned for days at a petrochemical facility on the outskirts of the Houston metropolitan area. It was followed by another blaze at a chemical plant northeast of Houston that left one person dead and two others critically injured.
A deadly explosion in 2013 at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas — one of the worst industrial disasters in Texas history — was powerful enough to be registered as a magnitude 2.1 earthquake, nearly obliterating an entire neighborhood. In 2016, federal officials ruled that the fire had been intentionally set.
Another plant, owned by a French chemicals company, exploded in 2017 in Crosby, about 30 miles northeast of downtown Houston, when the city was ravaged by a tropical depression.
Crystal Holmes, the spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, said that it would take time to evaluate whether the Port Neches fire was “a natural or man-made disaster.” “It looks, just visually, about half of the refinery is on fire,” she said.
The facility, which has more than 175 full-time employees, according to the Texas Petroleum Chemical Group website, stretches across 218 acres and produces butadiene, a colorless gas, and raffinate, a fuel product. The combined production capacity for the plant is more than 900 million pounds per year, the manufacturer said on its website.
The group said all plant workers had been evacuated, and emergency management officials also ordered the evacuation of residents nearby.
Ms. Holmes said search-and-rescue crews were going door-to-door to surrounding houses, where some residents had reported damage from the blast.
“We’re not quite sure if we have citizens trapped in their houses,” she said.
Jared Abshire, who lives with his family less than a mile from the plant, said in a Facebook message on Wednesday, “It woke us up, sounded like a train coming through the house.”
Mr. Abshire, 39, a production specialist at Motiva Enterprises, an oil refinery in Port Arthur, said that he and his family had evacuated their home after the explosion at the plant, which is next to a residential area.
“Say some prayers, TPC has had several explosions and is completely on fire,” Mr. Abshire wrote in his Facebook post.
Scorching, glowing orange flames could be seen raging at the plant, according to a video Mr. Abshire shared on Facebook. Multiple videos and images on social media showed large flames reaching into the sky.
One plant employee suffered a broken arm, while another sustained burns and had to be evacuated by air ambulance, Jeff Branick, the Jefferson Country judge, said by phone on Wednesday on behalf of the Office of Emergency Management. The third was treated at a hospital and released, he added, and there were no fatalities.
The Nederland Volunteer Fire Department said in a Facebook post that there was a mandatory evacuation was in place “for everyone within a ½ mile of the TPC plant in Port Neches.” The department added, “This could change and expand to a greater area.”
Mr. Abshire said that though explosions in “this type of industry” have happened before, a blast of this magnitude was rare.
“It has happened,” he said, but “it is not common at all.”