Texas City, TX Disaster - Explosion and Fire, Apr 1947
Series of Blasts Touched Off by Nitrate Ship Ravages Texas City.
1,200 FEARED DEAD.
Coast Jarred For 150 Miles
TEXAS CITY, April 16 (AP) - The worst American disaster of the last 10 years - a chain of blasts set off by the explosion of a nitrate-laden ship - smote this Gulf port today, killing an estimated 1,200 persons and injuring more than 1,000. Much of the boom industrial city of 15,000 population was destroyed or damaged. Property loss will run into millions of dollars. Fires followed the blasts. Poisonous gas from exploding chemicals was reported filtering through the area. The first blast rocked the surrounding region for 150 miles, inflicting heavy damage in Galveston. All aboard the ship, the French freighter Grandcamp were killed.
A reporter flying over the scene likened it to bomb destruction of European cities in the recent war. The mushrooming cloud of smoke that arose was described as resembling the aftermath of the atom bombing of Hiroshima.
First eye-witnesses to move into the area after the explosion saw workers stream from buildings with blood gushing from noses and ears, the result of concussion.
"Bodies were tossed about like playing cards," said a reporter for the Houston Chronicle.
The estimate of dead was reported by G. B. FINLEY, state highway commission maintenance engineer, on information from the disaster area.
"Rescue parties bringing out casualties from the blast area estimated that about one out of every three persons had been killed," FINLEY said, "which would indicate around 1,200 dead."
He referred to the sock area, where principal damage occurred and where there were some 3,500 persons at the time of the major blast.
Many of the fatalities occurred on the waterfront after the nitrate-loaded Grandcamp an American- built Liberty ship, exploded, killing all of its crew of about 40 men. Sightseers flocked to the docks, to be caught by following blasts which demolished the 19 million dollar war-built plant of the Monsanto Chemical Company.
The Grandcamp explosion at 9:12 o'clock this morning followed a fire that broke out at about 8:30 o'clock, while it was being loaded with nitrate and, The Houston Post said, "possibly with small ammunition."
The Texas City fire department fought the blaze and seemingly had it under control when an explosion ripped the ship apart.
The blast at the Monsanto plant, in the rear of the dock area, followed.
A report to The Houston Post said that residents were evacuating the city of 15,000 tonight because of a feared new explosion of a nitroglycerine-loaded ship at the Texas City docks.
Estimates of the fatalities ranged from 1,200 down to 450.
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