Explosion at a Texas Fertilizer CompanyIn April of 2013, West Fertilizer Company reported a fire inside their West, Texas plant. Emergency crews showed up and as they frantically fought to contain the flames, the unit exploded. The ammonium nitrate explosion killed 15 people, including first responders and volunteers. More than 200 people were injured and hundreds of buildings and homes were damaged or destroyed. The blast also left a 93-foot-wide crater. Experts said the explosive force was equivalent to about 8 tons of TNT and a magnitude 2.1 earthquake. About a month later, investigations by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives showed the fire was deliberately set as a “criminal act.” The US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board called it “one of the most destructive incidents ever investigated” by the board.
SS Grandcamp Explosion and FireIt seems fertilizer in April in Texas was a bad combination. In April of 1947, an explosion in Texas City that was sparked by a fire on the SS Grandcamp, a French-owned ship, rocked the area. Crews were finishing loading ammonium nitrate fertilizer when they noticed smoke in the cargo area where 2,300 tons of fertilizer was stored. Crews attempted to snuff out the fire, but they were unsuccessful. The massive explosion was heard over 150 miles away, and a mushroom cloud shot up 2,000 feet in the sky, destroying two small planes passing over. The SS High Flyer, a nearby ship carrying sulfur, also caught fire and exploded. The chain of fires caused crude oil tankers to burn for days. More than 2,000 homes were destroyed, a 15-foot tidal wave was set off, and between 400 and 600 people were killed with more than 4,000 injured.
Molasses Flood in Massachusetts
Slow as molasses was not applicable to this event. In January of 1919, a giant tank of molasses broke open in northern Boston. Over two million gallons came gushing down the streets at 35 miles per hour like a huge sticky tsunami wave. Twenty-one people were killed and over 150 more were injured. It may seem like a silly story at first, but the results were devastating. Theories about how the tank burst started circulating, some thought the molasses fermented and caused too much pressure. Some thought anarchists set up a bomb. The trial lasted for years and included thousands of witnesses, creating over 20,000 pages of conflicting statements. More recent investigations, however, discovered the tank was flawed. It took decades for the smell of molasses to dissipate.
Check out our next blog for more interesting stories.