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Tanker Explodes Near Mouth of Houston Ship Channel

October 10, 1993

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) _ An oil tanker explosion felt four miles away killed at least one crew member Saturday night, injured 10 others and ignited a raging fire on board.

Two missing crew members triggered the 8 p.m. CDT blast near the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel while they welded a metal drum, said Coast Guard Capt. Paul Prokop. He said there was little hope the men would be found alive.

A second blast rocked the area about an hour after the first explosion and authorities feared the 660-foot tanker, which was listing, could sink with its roughly 365,000 gallons of diesel fuel. It had no cargo.

Firefighters appeared to have contained the blaze by about 1 a.m. CDT Sunday but continued to douse the tanker with water.

Prokop said if the vessel sinks, it could ″block or partially block the ship channel.″ The 50-mile Houston channel is one of the world’s busiest ports.

Enrico Fenzi, vice president of New York City-based ship owner OMI Corp., said the two missing men had been doing repairs on the ship. Civilian boats helped look for them.

The tanker, the OMI Charger, was carrying 35 crew members. It was not immediately known how the 33 workers accounted for made it to shore several hundred yards away in east Galveston.

Of 11 workers taken to hospitals, one unidentified man was dead on arrival.

At least one worker was in serious condition with second-degree facial burns at the University of Texas at Galveston’s medical complex, said hospital spokeswoman DeAnn Armstrong.

Two people were in fair condition with smoke inhalation and another was in good condition, she said. Six workers were treated for minor injuries and released. Initially, the Coast Guard believed 27 workers were taken to hospitals.

The tanker explosion was the first in the area since the Norwegian tanker Mega Borg spilled 4.3 million gallons of crude oil off the Texas coast in June 1990.

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