Two dead, homes damaged after large explosion rocks Houston
- The blast, which was felt as far away as 22km, appeared to have originated at a machining and manufacturing company
- ‘The whole ceiling crashed down on all of us,’ a resident said
A massive explosion at a manufacturing building ripped through a Houston neighbourhood early Friday morning, and police said at least two people were killed and several injured while homes were damaged by the explosion that sent out blast waves detected for miles.
“First and foremost, I want to say that we do have confirmed fatalities in this case, at least two confirmed fatalities,” Houston police chief Art Acevedo said at a press briefing.
Aerial video showed the shredded and collapsed wreckage of the Watson Grinding and Manufacturing building smouldering but no longer flaming, along with widespread damage to area homes and businesses from the force of the blast.
The moment of the explosion, around 4:25am (1025 GMT), was captured on a home security camera, also aired on KTRK, that showed a blinding flash in the distance, followed by a fireball.
Acevedo said one employee was unaccounted for, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the blast was felt as far away as 14 miles (22km), based on social media reports.
“(The explosion) knocked us all out of our bed, it was so strong,” Mark Brady told KPRC television. “It busted out every window in our house. It busted everybody’s garage door in around here. … It’s a war zone over here.”
Another neighbour identified only as Kim said her family was trapped in her home until rescued.
“The whole house is ruined,” Kim said. “The whole ceiling crashed down on all of us. We were all trapped in there, and a nice family came and helped us out. It’s trashed. It’s just trashed. … Every house was devastated.”
KTRK, the local ABC affiliate, said the blast appeared to have originated at Watson Grinding and Manufacturing, a machining and manufacturing company. The explosion took place on Gessner Road in northwestern Houston, city police wrote on Twitter.
“The owner of Watson Grinding tells us it was a propylene gas explosion, which sent two people to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries,” KTRK reporter Marla Carter tweeted.
Propylene is a colourless, flammable, liquefied gas that has several industrial uses.
The debris field from the explosion spread about a half mile (1km) wide, but there were no known toxic gases emitted from the blast, police chief Acevedo said.
The explosion damaged several homes in the area, the Houston Chronicle reported, showing pictures of homes with windows blown in and debris scattered.
At least two people had cuts on their faces after their windows were blown in, according to pictures published on the Chronicle website.
“This is still an active scene,” Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña posted on Twitter. “We will advise of the possible cause of the explosion as soon as we have concrete info.”
A hazardous materials team was responding to the area and at least one person was taken to the hospital, the Houston Fire Department wrote on Twitter.
Mike Iscovitz, a meteorologist with the local Fox News channel, said the huge blast had shown up on local weather radar and was felt more than 20 miles (32km) away.
“Radar clearly shows this brief FLASH of reflectivity from NW Houston,” he tweeted.
Houston, a major hub for the oil and gas industry, is the fourth largest city in the US with a population of some 2.3 million.