US: Smoke hangs over Houston as chemical fire burns

By Kubra Chohan

HOUSTON (AA) – A huge plume of dark smoke hovered over Houston, Texas on Tuesday as a massive fire at a petrochemical terminal entered its third day.

The fire broke out Sunday morning at Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) in Deer Park, around 15 miles (24 kilometers) southeast of Houston.

ITC spokesperson Alice Richardson said the flames intensified Monday night due to a drop in the water pressure and first responders continued their efforts to contain the fire with water and foam once it was restored early Tuesday.

“There have been no serious injuries reported as a result of this incident. From the onset of this incident, ITC officials have worked closely with first responders around the clock to contain the fire and to inform the community,” she added.

Three tanks containing petrochemicals including toluene, naphtha and xylene are ablaze and another two have burned out while five others have not caught fire yet, Richardson said.

The Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office said conditions changed overnight and they don't have a definitive timeline on how long the fire will continue, the Houston Chronicle reported on its website.

According to the National Weather Service, the smoke plume will shift to the west and northwest portions of Houston and will be around 3,000 to 6,000 feet in the air.

On Monday, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality reported that air monitoring had not detected any immediate health concerns at ground level while the Deer Park Independent School District announced that schools in the area will resume their activities after canceling them for a day.