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Texas Chemical Plant Fire Contained, Mandatory Evacuation Orders Lifted For 50K People

PORT NECHES, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) - More than 50,000 people evacuated due to multiple explosions at a chemical plant in Southeast Texas on Wednesday, are now allowed to return home.

The fire in Port Neches, about 80 miles east of Houston is now contained.

Firefighters are letting it burn out.

Mandatory evacuations had been in effect.

There is still no word on the cause of the explosions and it could take several months according to Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick.

Fire Continues At East Texas Plant; 50K Under Evacuation Order
Fire at TPC Group chemical plant (courtesy: KTRK)

"We are in a position to say it's contained. We feel comfortable with the efforts that have been made by our firefighters," Judge Branick said at a news conference Friday.

Branick said residents should still avoid the area around the TPC Group plant about 80 miles (129 kilometers) east of Houston. He said fires remain in the facility but are isolated.

The explosions began early Wednesday morning and blew out windows and doors of nearby homes. Three workers were injured, and the evacuation orders covered a 4-mile radius around the plant during the Thanksgiving holiday.

Officials at the plant said fire and smoke from the plant may remain visible, and they did not know when the blazes would be fulling extinguished.

The plant makes chemical and petroleum-based products. Authorities have said the first blast occurred around 1 a.m. Wednesday in an area of the plant that makes butadiene, a chemical used to make synthetic rubber and other products. It sent a large plume of smoke stretching for miles and started a fire.

The second blast ripped through the plant about 2 p.m., sending a steel reactor tower rocketing high into the air. That prompted Branick, the top county official, to order a mandatory evacuation of Port Neches and neighboring Groves, Nederland and part of Port Arthur.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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