11/21/2014

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5 hurt in explosion at Plymouth gas plant

5 hurt in explosion at Plymouth gas plant
PLYMOUTH, Wash. -- Crews are on scene at the natural gas plant in Plymouth after Monday's explosion. They are trying to adjust pressures in the plant's gas lines to prevent leaks.

Officials say a small fire that had been burning throughout most of the day Monday did go out some time overnight.

The evacuation order issued for the area around the plant was lifted Tuesday afternoon. The original two-mile radius of the evacuation zone had previously been reduced to one mile.

Five workers were hurt in the explosion, and four were sent to the hospital. One person was taken to a burn center in Portland. The other three had minor injuries and were treated in Hermiston.

Officials say 14 employees were at the plant at the time of the explosion.

The plant is called Williams Northwest Pipeline Company and is located at 42612 E. Christy Road. The plant is just west of the I-82 bridge near McNary Dam.

Neighbors say the explosion was huge and felt from as far away as Irrigon, which is six miles away. A command post for the media was established at Highway 14 and I-82 for the sake of everyone's safety.

The injured are all workers at the plant. Initially, we were told of only one injury and that the person would recover. Up to 1,000 people evacuated around the area, all on the Washington side. Benton County Sheriff Steve Keane says the fire is now out. The blast was at 8:20 a.m. Monday. The Sheriff says the explosion sent a mushroom-shaped cloud towering into the air, and shrapnel punctured a liquefied natural gas tank. Some gas leaked but did not ignite.

A robot was being sent in to assess the damage at the plant, and there is also a plan to use a helicopter to view it from the air.

Deputies went door to door throughout Plymouth, along the Columbia River, and evacuated people in a two-mile radius due to the potential blast zone. That's about the area from Plymouth to Paterson.

Buses were provided for those without cars, and a shelter was set up across the river in Oregon at the Umatilla County Fairgrounds. As part of the evacuation, Highway 14 and railroad tracks were shut down. The evacuations may last overnight into Tuesday. The Oregon Trail Chapter of the Red Cross is leading the assistance efforts. People will be given shelter overnight if needed. It may be in a common area.

We are still gathering information on exactly what happened at 8:20 a.m., but at this point it appears there was a pipeline explosion. Shrapnel from that explosion hit a large container holding one billion cubic feet of natural gas, which is about 15 million gallons if it was liquid. The tank is currently being drained.

The fumes from the rupture are dangerous to breathe. First responders are getting nauseated while trying to assist with evacuations.

Williams operates two liquefied natural gas tanks in Plymouth. Liquefied natural gas is converted into vapor at the site.

Fire crews from all over the Tri-Cities were sent to Plymouth. People in the area are being directed to the Umatilla County Fairgrounds as an evacuation site.

This is a developing story and more information will continue to be posted here.
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