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Texas City, Texas, on Galveston Bay was the scene of the nation’s deadliest industrial accident 75 years ago this month.

On April 16, 1947 a French ship carrying ammonium nitrate fertilizer blew up in the harbor, sparking a chain of explosions and fires.

More than 500 people died — including all but one member of the Texas City Fire Department — and more than 3,000 people were injured.

The fertilizer shipment had been intended to help struggling farmers in Europe increase food production in the wake of World War II.

Texas city also was the site of a deadly industrial accident in 2005 when an explosion at a BP refinery killed 15 workers.


From The Tribune-Sun, Wednesday, April 16, 1947:


Explosion-Wrecked Port in Chaos; Total Evacuation Ordered at Once


TEXAS CITY, Tex., April 16 (UP)—Police of stricken Texas city ordered all disaster relief workers out of the explosions and fire-wrecked waterfront area at 1:30 p.m. today as the threat of a TNT explosion developed.

HOUSTON, April 16, (UP)—The Houston police radio heard reports soon after noon today from the Galveston and Pelly police stations that Texas City authorities had ordered the immediate evacuation of the entire explosion-damaged town “because of spreading gas fumes believed to be poisonous.” Houston police said the appeal called for every available auto to help transport refugees. The population of Texas city is more than 18,000 persons.

TEXAS CITY, Tex., April 16 (AP)—An estimated 350 persons were killed here today in the worst explosion in Texas gulf coast history. A chain of explosions rocked a hundred-mile area, and virtually razed the city of 15,000. The Texas Department of Public Safety announced soon after noon that reports indicated an estimated 350 dead. The injured toll is reported to be more than 1000.

Poison gas was reported infiltrating the still-burning city at noon. The National Guard was called out.

Doctors, nurses, police and firemen from Galveston, Houston and other nearby cities were rushed here.

The chain of explosions began on the Grand Camp, a French ship loaded with nitrate. It spread to the multi-million-dollar Monsanto Chemical Corp. plant, now reported a complete ruin following the explosion and fire.

The death and casualty estimate was made by the Galveston Tribune, which rushed newsmen to the area. Telephone communications were disrupted by the explosion, the few remaining lines being clogged with emergency calls for help.

The Grand Camp, destroyed with all men aboard by the explosion, according to the Tribune, caught fire earlier today. Sever hundred curious gathered at the docks to watch the fire.

When the explosion followed, many on the docks were killed. Steel beams were hurled over the city, some as far as 15 miles away.

Many of the dead were Monsanto workers.

Source: This post first appeared on sandiegouniontribune.com

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