10 Hurt in Texas Refinery Blast, Fire

TEXAS CITY, Texas (AP) -- A furnace at the BP refinery has exploded and burned, sending 10 people to a hospital for treatment of exposure to chemicals.

The furnace fire followed multiple blasts that rocked the Houston Ship Channel-area petrochemical complex about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday was fueled by naphtha, a petroleum feed stock used at the refinery, said Bruce C. Clawson, the Texas City emergency management director.

Regulatory agencies will conduct investigations into the incident, which forced the evacuation of the plant for several hours Tuesday night.

``There was a boom, followed by two more booms,'' said Tommy Clark, who was in his office at Trey Industries not far from the refinery when the blasts occurred. ``It shook the whole building.''

Clawson said an internal investigation was also under way, following a heightened security alert from recent reports from the FBI and industry groups that refineries in this area might be targeted by terrorists.

``That was one of our first concerns'' with the blasts, Clawson told the Texas City Sun in Wednesday's editions. ``But there is no indication of that, none at all.''

Ten people reported to Mainland Center Hospital complaining of exposure, said spokesman Harold Fattig. He said a decontamination area had been set up in case dangerous chemicals had been released into the air.

BP spokeswoman Annie Smith said operations resumed late Tuesday.

The blasts prompted an early ending to high school baseball and softball action between the Texas City Stings and the La Marque Cougars. Texas City's junior varsity baseball team, which had been in La Marque for a game, sheltered in place at the student center at College of the Mainland.

Some College of the Mainland evening classes were dismissed.

The Texas City refinery is the largest of BP's four refineries in the Houston area. It has the capacity to refine 435,000 barrels of crude oil daily.