Evacuation, curfew order lifted for Port Neches area after plant explosion

PORT NECHES, Texas (KTRK) -- The mandatory evacuation and curfew order in effect for the Port Neches area was lifted Friday by Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick.

Nine fires continued to burn at the site, but the fires are contained, Branick said. The orders remained in place for nearly 48 hours following a massive explosion and fire at the TPC facility.

The orders were issued Wednesday for everyone within four miles of the facility where crews continue to respond to a massive explosion and fire.

The communities of Port Neches, Groves, Nederland, Central Gardens, Beauxart Gardens, and portions of Port Arthur were impacted by the order.

"I just worry about what we're breathing in," said Laurel Amy who was packing up outside her Port Arthur home Wednesday evening. "It's better to be safe than sorry."

Amy was scheduled to host Thanksgiving. Instead, she and her family are heading to a friend's home in Beaumont.

ABC13 was there as many residents were evacuating. Some opted to stay.

"We feel pretty safe because we really haven't smelled anything in the air," said Craig Wade.

The initial blast happened around 1 a.m. Wednesday at the TPC Group plant off Highway 366. The facility is approximately 95 miles east of Houston.

Two employees and one contractor were injured in the blast, but all were treated and released from hospitals, officials said.

By early Wednesday afternoon, another blast rocked the plant as personnel continued to fight the fires on site. That explosion was caused by the collapse of a flaring tower, according to Jefferson County Emergency Management Coordinator Michael White.

More flaring towers could also fall as the response continued, White said, and the fire may take days to put out.

Butadiene, a known carcinogen, is the chemical that is burning, according to officials.

RELATED: What's burning in the plant explosion in Port Neches?

Black debris was seen floating in the air hours after the initial blast, as crews continued to spray water onto the impacted areas of the facility. Residents were advised not to touch the floating debris with their bare hands.

"The black stuff floating, don't touch it," said Troy Monk, who is the director of health safety and security for the TPC Group.

The smoke plume from Port Neches could be seen from as far away as 50 miles by late afternoon.

Windows were shattered and a number of structures were damaged from the initial blast, according to posts on social media.

RELATED: Impact and thunderous sound of Texas explosion caught on camera
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Explosion at the TPC plant on Port Neches, Texas, shattered windows and caused damage to structures for miles. Footage from a home security camera around a mile away from the blast illustrates the strength of the explosion.



Everyone working in the plant was accounted for. There were as many as 27 people on site when the explosion happened, according to officials.

Wednesday evening, the American Red Cross opened a shelter at Ford Park in Beaumont. About 50 people had registered including families with children.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is monitoring air quality around the plant. So far, no elevated levels of concern have been detected, the agency reported.

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