An explosion and fire that injured four people and hurled heavy debris into the community led to an overnight shelter-in-place order for a two-mile radius of the Chemours chemical plant in Belle, West Virginia Tuesday.
Shortly after 10 p.m., an explosion involving methanol and chlorine occurred at Optima Chemical, owners of a portion of the 723-acre Chemours site, county official report. Those injured include two workers and one person hit by debris.
A fourth casualty drove themselves to the hospital, Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper told local media. At least one of the four casualties is severely injured, he said.
Firefighters were able to extinguish the resulting fire before midnight, Belle Mayor David Fletcher, a volunteer firefight, reports. Authorities lifted the shelter-in-place order about 4½ hours after the blast.
Residents near the plant reported a concussion from the blast that shook their homes. The Twitter site for the Belle Volunteer Fire Department identified at least one local road – Quincy Dock Road – as impassible Wednesday morning due to damage.
A report posted to Twitter and attributed to Mayor Fletcher states that steel beams from the blast landed on Interstate 64 crossing the Kanawha River.
All schools in the Belle area will remain closed Wednesday in action taken almost immediately after the blast.
Some Twitter posts identify the chlorine involved as a dry chlorinated compound known as CDB63, a strong oxidizing agent used to clean dry utensils. Eye protection and gloves are recommended while handling it.
This region of West Virginia has long been identified with industrial emergencies. In September 2010, DuPont, former owner of the Chemours site, released 80 tons of methanol in the Kanawha River. That same year a release of highly toxic phosgene gas killed a worker.
In 2014, contamination from a leak at nearby Freedom Industries left hundred without clean drinking water.