15 Killed in Texas Refinery Explosion

TEXAS CITY, Texas, March 24, 2005 (ENS) - The death toll from Wednesday's fatal blast at the BP oil refinery in Texas City rose to 15 after the body of a missing worker was discovered this morning.

The explosion at the nation's third largest refinery just south of Houston injured more than 100 people and sent flames and black smoke towering into the sky. Rescue and recovery crews worked through the night searching for missing workers.

The blast shook the ground at about 1:20 Wednesday afternoon and the resulting fire burned for about two hours. The cause of the explosion is under investigation.

Don Parus, BP’s Texas City refinery manager, said, "Words cannot begin to express how I and the people of BP feel right now. This is an extremely sad day for Texas City and BP.


The fire at the BP Refinery sent a plume of black smoke high into the air over Texas City. (Photo credit unknown)
"We have not had time to investigate causes, and we will not speculate." Parus said. "But at this time, terrorism is not a primary focus of our concern."

The explosion occurred at the company’s isomerization unit, which is used to increase the octane content of some fuel products.

The company is working to secure affected areas, to account for all personnel, and to help mobilize an incident investigation team.

President of BP America Ross Pillari arrived in Texas City this morning. He said the company would commit its full corporate resources to investigating the cause of the accident.


BP America President Ross Pillari (Photo courtesy NJ Chamber of Commerce)
“I am here today to express BP’s deep regret over yesterday’s accident" Pillari said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who died and with those from the workforce and the community who were injured."

BP is providing employee assistance program counseling and pastoral help to responders, employees, workers, and families.

The company and government officials have set up environmental monitoring around the refinery. Officials with the county health district said they were monitoring the smoke and fumes but had no indication "anything extremely toxic" had been released.

The death toll is the largest in the area since April 1947 when two ships exploded in Galveston harbor, killing an estimated 600 people.