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Houston Chemical Disaster Zone Remains No-Go Two Weeks After Blaze

Published: April 1, 2019
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Source: bloomberg

Two weeks after a chemical storage complex near Houston erupted in flames and menaced tens of thousands of people with dangerous fumes, the site remains too hazardous for investigators to approach.

Intercontinental Terminal Co. is still trying to drain millions of gallons of volatile oil byproducts from tanks damaged in the four-day blaze that began on March 17. The ground around the tanks is also saturated in dangerous fluids, severely restricting access to the facility 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of downtown Houston. On Friday, the company said they may be able to allow some access early this week.

ITC and its top executive, Bernt Netland, have been chastised by elected officials for their handling of the unfolding disaster that cast a mile-high plume of black smoke over the fourth-largest American city for days, paralyzed its eastern suburbs and severed Houston’s waterborne access to the Gulf of Mexico. Harris County Fire Marshal Laurie Christensen’s probe of the event has so far been restricted to off-site interviews.

“We haven’t been able to gain access to the site yet,” said Rachel Moreno, a spokeswoman for the fire marshal. “They’re still doing emergency operations and we need to wait until it’s safe for the investigators to go in.”

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