KF5JRV > TODAY 16.04.19 13:32l 42 Lines 2217 Bytes #999 (0) @ WW
BID : 34568_KF5JRV
Subj: Today in History - Apr 16
Sent: 190416/1130Z 34568@KF5JRV.#NWAR.AR.USA.NA BPQ6.0.18
At 9:12 a.m. in Texas City’s port on Galveston Bay, a fire aboard the
French freighter Grandcamp ignites ammonium nitrate and other explosive
materials in the ship’s hold, causing a massive blast that destroys much
of the city and takes nearly 600 lives.
The port of Texas City, a small industrial city with a population of
about 18,000, was teaming with chemical plants and oil refineries that
provided steady, good-paying jobs for much of the town. In the
industrial sector, minor accidents and chemical fires were rather
commonplace, and many stood around the port casually watching the
reddish orange blaze that broke out on the Grandcamp early on a
Wednesday morning. Twenty-seven members of the Texas City Volunteer Fire
Department were called out to douse the flames, but the ship was so hot
that the water from their fire hoses was instantly vaporized.
At 12 minutes past nine, the fire caught the freighter’s stores of
ammonium nitrate, a compound used to make dynamite, and Texas City
exploded. Wood-frame houses in the city were flattened, additional
blasts were triggered at nearby chemical plants, and fires broke out
across the city. The mushroom cloud from the blast rose 2,000 feet, and
fragments of the Grandcamp were hurled thousands of feet into the air,
landing on buildings and people. The ship’s anchor, weighing 1.5 tons,
was flung two miles and embedded 10 feet into the ground at the Pan
American refinery. The explosion was heard as far as 150 miles away.
Devastating fires burned for days, and on April 17, 1947 the freighter
High Flyer, also loaded with nitrates, exploded, further devastating the
port and causing a new string of explosions at nearby plants.
Fortunately, most of Texas City’s population had been evacuated by then,
and the city’s losses were primarily material. By late in the day on
April 18, emergency crews had the situation under control. Some
eyewitnesses said the scene was worse than anything they had seen in
Europe during World War II. The Grandcamp explosion was the most
devastating industrial accident in U.S. history, with 600 people killed
and more than 3,000 wounded.
73 de Scott KF5JRV
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