71 years later, Texas City remembers 1947 ship disaster

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71 years later, Texas City remembers 1947 disaster (KTRK)

Monday marks the anniversary of the 1947 Texas City ship disaster. On Saturday evening survivors met in Texas City to commemorate the 71st anniversary of the disaster in a somber memorial.

On April 16th, 1947, one of the largest non-nuclear explosions to have ever occurred rocked the Texas City port, killing hundreds of people including 28 members of the Texas City Fire Department.

It all started shortly after 8 a.m. that day, when longshoremen noticed smoke in the hold of the S.S. Grandcamp.

The Texas City Volunteer Fire Department was called but the fire continued to grow, and the hold of the ship continued to get hotter.

The fire sent billowing smoke across the city. A crowd gathered at the docks to watch firefighters battle the huge blaze.

At 9:12 a.m., the ammonium nitrate detonated, sending a massive fireball hundreds of feet into the air. The explosion caused a 15-foot wave that crashed onto the docks and flooded surrounding areas. Windows shattered as far away as Houston, and vibrations from the blast registered on a seismograph in Denver, Colorado. A barge anchored in port was blown out of the water and landed 110 feet away.

Everyone standing nearby, including almost the entire Texas City Volunteer Fire Department, was killed instantly. Buildings near the blast were flattened and the neighboring Monsanto plant was destroyed.

The fire continued to burn into the next day, and at 1:10 a.m. on April 17th, ammonium nitrate on a second ship exploded. That blast killed two more people and destroyed a nearby ship.

According to the Texas City Library, the high school gym was converted into a temporary morgue and a local auto mechanic's garage was used as an embalming room.

The exact number of dead was never determined. Estimates are that between 500 and 600 people died in the explosion. The exact number of dead was difficult to determine, because of the condition of many of the bodies and the fact that there were a number of visiting seaman and laborers, according to the Texas City Library. Thousands were wounded.
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