Chemical Plant Fire Injuries Mount

Tuesday, December 31, 2013 @ 03:12 PM gHale

The number of people taken to the hospital after an explosion and fire at an Axiall Corp. chemical plant near Lake Charles, LA, has gone up to 18.

Christus St. Patrick Hospital spokeswoman Heather Hidalgo-LaFleur said all 18 people ended up released after treatment for injuries related to hazardous smoke that drifted over Interstate 10. She declined to discuss the nature of the injuries.

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Atlanta-based Axiall said it is continuing the investigation into the cause of the Dec. 20 explosion at the Westlake plant. Callers to the Coast Guard’s National Response Center reported the fire released unknown amounts of vinyl chloride, hydrochloric acid and EDC dichloroethane.

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality said monitors didn’t detect any chemicals. The agency says it could release a report as soon as Friday.

At first officials said there were no injuries. When the fire first broke out, a shelter-in-place order covering all of Westlake and parts of Sulphur and Moss Bluff was issued a little after 2 p.m. but lifted less than an hour later, by 2:52 p.m. Interstate 10, U.S. 90 and Old Spanish Trail ended up closed during the incident and all roads reopened by 2:55 p.m. Traffic remained heavy in the area until 5 p.m.

The shelter-in-place order included Western Heights Elementary, Westwood Elementary, S.P. Arnett Elementary, Westlake High School and Maplewood Middle. Officials released students at 3:15 p.m.

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