15 Workers Injured in La. Blasts
Jul. 05, 1999
GRAMERCY, La. (AP) _ A series of explosions heard for miles shook an aluminum plant early today, injuring at least 15 workers and spraying a caustic chemical over the area.
Authorities told residents to stay indoors and close their windows.
No one was killed in the blast at the Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Co. plant, said state police Sgt. William Davis.
The explosions at about 5:15 a.m. occurred in a part of the plant where electricity is generated and where bauxite, a reddish and clay-like aluminum ore, is mixed with a liquid form of sodium hydroxide, a caustic chemical.
The blasts awakened people living miles from the plant, broke windows several miles away and knocked dishes off shelves.
``I thought it was a jet airplane explosion,'' said Leon Millet, who lives about two miles away.
The blasts sent a cloud of the bauxite-sodium hydroxide mixture into the air, and state police Lt. Mike Edmonson said some of it landed in residential yards within a mile of the plant.
Authorities warned people not to touch the material, which can burn the skin.
Everyone was accounted for at the plant 40 miles west of New Orleans, and none of the injuries was considered life-threatening, Edmonson said.
Many roads around Gramercy remained closed by late morning. The plant may be shut down for months, St. Martin Parish Sheriff Willy Martin said.
The workers' injuries ranged from severe burns to difficulty breathing and eye irritation, WJBO-AM reported.