1947 Texas City Disaster
Uploaded by jostre on Feb 05, 2007
The Texas City Disaster, as it is known today, is the worst industrial accident in America’s history.
Texas City, home of one of the largest petrochemical complexes in the United States, almost disappeared from existence on the morning of April 16, 1947. The losses from this disaster were unprecedented, from the number of those killed or wounded to the billions of dollars in damage. There has not been a documented American industrial accident of this magnitude since.
The nightmare began when the SS Grandcamp, bearing a cargo of ammonium nitrate fertilizer destined for Europe, caught fire while in the Texas City harbor. The local fire department responded to the dockside fire as they had done many times before with success. The colorful flames and smoke attracted a large crowd of curious children and adults. The people of Texas City have become unconcerned about fires on the dock, they happened all the time. It had become a common saying, “let’s go watch the firefighters work their magic.” Nobody knew about the highly explosive ammonium nitrate onboard the very ship that was on fire. The label was simply marked fertilizer after all. There was nothing on the labels to indicate the volatile nature of what was in those bags. As the onlookers watched, the ship exploded sending a column of smoke over two thousand feet high into the air. A second explosion sent out a violent shockwave. Within minutes the entire industrial complex was on fire. Buildings were collapsing, trapping people inside. Pipelines were bursting spraying their contents onto anyone and everything around. The water in the bay that had been compressed by the shockwave from the two explosions returned in the form a tidal wave twenty feet high. Between the violent explosions, fierce fires, and the rushing water, some people literally disintegrated like the fire chief standing atop the ship when it exploded. Though exact numbers could never be established, estimates are as high as 600 dead and over 5,000 injured.
As if the fatalities and casualties were not enough, the damage caused by the incident was wide spread and would take years to recover from. Earthquake like tremors were reported as far north as Palestine, Texas, as far east as the Louisiana – Mississippi boarder in Slidell, Lousiana,...