The main reason i even post this today is to remind us how important it is to set up and follow all safety rules when it comes to dangerous chemicals and their handling. The story of the disaster and it's aftermath is heartbreaking, to say the least.
Texas City Disaster
Photo via Wikimedia
On April 16, 1947, the worst harbor explosion in US history occurred. A French cargo vessel named the Grandcamp was carrying a load of ammonium nitrate, which is commonly used in fertilizer and in explosives for atomic weapons.
A lit cigarette left by one of the dock workers had sparked a fire on the loading dock. It spread quickly into one of the Grandcamp’s cargo holds and ignited the ammonium nitrate.
The ship’s captain had ordered her hatches closed to contain the fire, but the rise in temperature only created better conditions for the volatile chemical to explode. The High Flyer, a nearby vessel which was carrying sulfur, was also damaged and exploded a day later due to fires from the Grandcamp‘s initial explosion.
Poisonous gas quickly filled the air over the city. Unfortunately, there was also a phone operator strike at the time, making emergency teams unable to respond to local residents affected by the toxins in the air. Over 500 people were killed in this incident, including a fire chief and 27 of the 28 firefighters who responded to the dock fire.
As a result, new safety measures were put in place to ensure that ammonium nitrate is transported safely. Docks now have a central response system to react quickly to dockside emergencies, and shipping companies are now required to use specially sealed containers and store the chemicals away from other hazardous materials.
I have been to Texas City many times over the years, and I can attest to the fact that many of the scars left from that explosion still exist. Sad thing to see, for sure!
Coffee in the kitchen once again today.