A tank containing crude oil or asphalt exploded at a large refinery in Wisconsin on Thursday, injuring several people and prompting fire officials to order a large-scale evacuation.
At least 11 people are being treated for injuries at local hospitals, and so far no fatalities have been reported. The total amount of injured could be as high as 20 however, including walking wounded who were not taken to the hospital.
The explosion at the Husky Energy oil refinery happened at about 10am, Superior Fire Chief Steve Panger said, and it was put out a little more than an hour later.
At least 11 people have been hospitalized after an explosion at a refinery in Superior, Wisconsin on Thursday
A container containing either oil or asphalt exploded around 10am Thursday morning, and the initial fire was put out a little more than an hour later. But the fire reignited around noon
A large-scale evacuation has been ordered to an area 10 miles south, two miles north and three miles east and west of the facility
Three schools – including two elementary schools and a middle school – were evacuated after the second blast
Husky Energy, which owns the refinery, said all employees are accounted for and they are monitoring the air quality
Superior police later tweeted that the fire had reignited. Now an evacuation is underway for an area 10 miles south, two miles north, and three miles east and west of the facility. It’s unclear how many people are impacted by the evacuation. The area to the south of the plant is mostly rural.
Three schools – Great Lakes Elementary, Superior Middle and Northern Lights Elementary – are in the evacuation zone.
STATEMENT FROM HUSKY ENERGY
Husky Energy is responding to a fire at its Superior Refinery located in Superior, Wisconsin.
Emergency crews are on site and all workers have been accounted for. Husky’s first priority is the safety of its people, the community and emergency responders. There are injuries, which are being treated at hospital and on site.
Regulatory authorities have been notified. Local air quality is being monitored. There is no danger to the public or local residents at this time.
Further information will be provided as it becomes available.
The Superior School District evacuated the children to an Amsoil plant in Superior. Photos posted to Twitter showed long lines outside the plant as parents rushed to pick up their children.
Police blocked roads around the refinery in Superior, which is home to about 27,000 people and borders Minnesota to the north and the tip of Lake Superior.
Essentia Health spokeswoman Maureen Talarico said five people injured in the explosion are being treated at St. Mary’s Medical Center, a Level II trauma center in Duluth, Minnesota. She said emergency room physicians described those patients as ‘awake and alert’. According to WDIO, one of the patients was being treated for serious blast injuries while the four others have non-life-threatening injuries.
Another five are being treated at St. Mary’s Hospital in Superior, Talarico said. She said the extent of those injuries is unknown.
In Duluth, St. Luke’s Hospital was treating one worker and did not expect to receive any more, spokeswoman Jessica Stauber said. She did not have a condition for that person.
Douglas County Deputy Medical Examiner Paul Stein told the Duluth News Tribune that he heard there were 20 total injuries.
The refinery, where about 600 people work, was being shut down for cleaning and repairs at the time of the explosion
The refinery is the only one in the state of Wisconsin. It processes light and heavy crude oil and produces asphalt, gasoline and other products
Many reported feeling the initial blast miles away. After the fire reignited around noon, several more booms were felt
Panger said a small tank containing either crude oil or asphalt exploded in the refinery.
A contractor who was inside the building told WDIO television that the explosion sounded like ‘a sonic boom’ and that it happened when crews were working on shutting the plant down for repairs, which he said is the most dangerous time at such facilities.
Many reported feeling the initial blast miles away.
‘We had a huge boom and it came through and rattled the whole clubhouse,’ Allie Fuller, assistant operations manager at Nemadji Golf Course, told the Star Tribune. The golf course is located about a half-mile south of the plant and said golfers ‘got really scared’ after the blast.
After the fire reignited, locals felt several booms coming from the facility. Those that came out to look at the flames noticed around eight ambulances going in and out of the plant, as well as helicopters.
This is the area that has been evacuated. It’s unclear how many people are impacted by the evacuation. The area south of the refinery is mostly rural
Bob King, a photographer with the News Tribune, flew over the site in an airplane and said he saw one of the large white storage tanks spilling a thick, black liquid and white smoke rising from the plant.
He said the air smelled ‘like burning rubber’.
Brad Boos, president of Hunt Electric North, told KARE 11 that 37 employees were at the refinery at the time of the explosion and that one of them was injured by shrapnel, but is expected to live.
He said up to 600 people from different contractors were at the site at the time.
Eric Mathews, a boilermaker for a contract at the refinery said he was just 200 yards away when the initial blast happened.
So far there have been no reports of fatalities. Local hospitals say they are treating 11 patients. A medical examiner at the scene said with walking wounded the casualty number could be as high as 20
He told the Duluth News Tribune that the blast was so forceful it ‘rattled your brain’.
‘I was running and then the debris started falling out of the air … I stopped under a pipe rack then waited for the debris to stop falling,’ Mathews said.
Thankfully, he and all or most of his fellow contractors were on break in blast-proof shelters at the time
‘The really lucky part is that it happened during our break so all of our people were in blast shacks,’ Mathews said.
‘Husky’s first priority is the safety of its people, the community and emergency responders. There are injuries, which are being treated at hospital and on site,’ the owners of the refinery said
The refinery, which dates back to the early 1950s, has a processing capacity of around 50,000 barrels per day and a storage capacity of 3.6 million barrels of crude and products
No damage estimate was available.
Calgary-Alberta-based Husky Energy refinery bought the refinery from Indianapolis-based Calumet Specialty Products Partners last year for over $490 million. It’s Wisconsin’s only refinery, and it produces gasoline, asphalt and other products.
Husky has about 180 employees and said in a statement on Thursday that all workers are accounted for and they are monitoring the air quality situation.
‘Husky’s first priority is the safety of its people, the community and emergency responders. There are injuries, which are being treated at hospital and on site.
‘Regulatory authorities have been notified. Local air quality is being monitored. There is no danger to the public or local residents at this time,’ the statement said.
The refinery, which dates back to the early 1950s, has a processing capacity of around 50,000 barrels per day and a storage capacity of 3.6 million barrels of crude and products. It processes both light and heavy crude oil and produces asphalt, gasoline, diesel and heavy fuel oils
Residents in Superior took to Instagram to share their pictures of the dark black clouds coming from the plant after the explosions