Plant fire continues to burn, evacuation order remains

PORT NECHES, Texas (KTRK) -- Many families aren't able to spend Thanksgiving in their homes because of the explosion at the TPC plant in Port Neches, near Beaumont.

A mandatory 4-mile evacuation is still in effect as the fire burns.

The areas within that radius include the cities of Port Neches, Groves, Nederland and the northern part of Port Arthur bounded by: the intersection of Sunken Court at Twin City Highway to St. Catherine's Church, on Woodrow Blvd., then to the Port Arthur Civic Center and including the areas of Beauxart Gardens and Central Gardens.

Some families stayed the night at a Red Cross shelter in Beaumont.

On Wednesday afternoon, ABC13's cameras caught a second explosion, which later led to the expanded evacuation zone.

Surveillance video showed the initial blast around 1 a.m. Wednesday from Avenue Coffee and Cafe. In the video, the blast shakes the building, then blows the doors open.

The cafe spent hours cleaning up before employees evacuated. They're closed until further notice.

As for air monitoring, officials say all levels are within federal and state guidelines, and there is no danger to the public so far.

TPC says it has set up 20 air monitoring stations and will continue to monitor around the clock.

A 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew went into effect Wednesday night and is expected to continue until further notice.

Port Neches Chief of Police Paul Lemoine explained on Facebook that residents aren't completely forbidden from their homes during the day despite the curfew and evacuation order.

"Even though this is a mandatory evacuation, we are not using these resources to prevent the entry of citizens back into the City," Lemoine said. "This will only be enforced during the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew period."

"I can feel your frustration and sorry for any plans that might have been interrupted, but I want to emphasize that the safety of our community is always going to be our top concern," said Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick.

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Residents who live within a 4 mile radius of the TPC facility in Port Neches are making the best of their situation this Thanksgiving.

Jefferson County officials said the fire could take days to put out.

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

RELATED: What's burning in the refinery 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.

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