An explosion and fire ripped through an ammonia unit at a fertilizer plant in Donaldsonville, La., last night, killing one worker and injuring 11 others.
According to accounts, the blast could be felt for miles. It happened as seven contract workers cleaned an empty mixing tank at CF Industries, about 55 miles west of New Orleans in the industrial corridor along the Mississippi River.
One of the contract workers died and four of the other injured workers are CF employees.
"We are very saddened by the loss of life and injuries," said Louis Frey, operations manager at CF Industries. "The injured were transported to area hospitals for treatment, and we have notified and are working with the families of those involved to address their needs."
The name of the worker who died was not immediately released.
According to Frey, the explosion and fire occurred in the facility''s Ammonia No. 3 unit at about 11:30 p.m.
The fire burned for about 20 minutes, and fenceline monitoring indicated that there was no release of any materials beyond the facility, said Frey.
The plant, which makes nitrogen-based fertilizer, remained in operation except for the area involved in the explosion.
The cause of the explosion was not immediately known.
The plant, a sprawling facility that covers more than 200 acres, is described as one of the largest nitrogen fertilizer complexes in the world.
CF Industries cited National Safety Council figures in 1999 that showed the plant with 5 million safe work hours, ranking it first in the nation and third in the world among similar facilities.
by Virginia Sutcliffe