Damage from Hurricane Laura Thursday is blamed for leaking chlorine triggered by a massive fire at a chemical plant in southwestern Louisiana.
Officials believe that chlorine manufactured at the Biolab plant in Lake Charles, Louisiana, somehow reacted and decomposed, generating heat. The fire that broke out as a result released chlorine gas to the atmosphere.
Contract firefighters with US Fire Pump are at the scene working with first responders, local authorities, and environment agencies. Also responding is the Louisiana State Police Emergency Services unit.
A release by Kik Custom Products, owners of the Biolab plant, directly attributes the situation to hurricane damage.
“We can confirm that, as a result of damage sustained during Hurricane Laura, there is currently a fire at our Biolab Lake Charles, Louisiana, facility,” the release states. “Our priority is the safety and well-being of the Lake Charles community of which we are a part.”
Biolab makes chlorine for use in swimming pools. The plant had been shut down and evacuated when officials upgraded Hurricane Laura to a Category 4 storm.
Hurricane Laura made landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border around midnight. Heavy smoke appeared above the plant as early as 9:30 a.m. At 10:37 a.m., Governor John Bel Edwards issued a shelter-in-place order advising nearby residents to close all windows and doors and shut off air conditioning.
By 5 p.m., state police described the fire as “smoldering.” However, at 8 p.m., the shelter-in-place radius surrounding the plant was increased to one mile in all directions. Interstate 10 remained shut down in both directions.
Chlorine gas at 40-60 parts per million can cause toxic pneumonitis or acute pulmonary edema. Concentrations above 400 ppm for more than 30 minutes can be fatal.