Monday, 22 October, 2018

Mayor: Evacuation order lifted following refinery blast

Winsconsin explosion: 'SONIC BOOM' blast leaves DOZENS injured Refinery explosion in Superior, Wis., injures at least 20
| 29 April, 2018, 01:00

The explosion took place just after 10 a.m.at the refinery across the Lake Superior harbor from Duluth.

A spokeswoman for St. Luke's, which operates two hospitals in the area, said it was treating one injured patient, but did not provide details on that person's condition.

The call came in at 10:06 a.m., according to Superior Fire Department Chief Steve Panger. The Duluth News Tribune reported at that time that the refinery, which is the only one in Wisconsin, had about 180 employees.

There were no reports of fatalities, and all of the refinery's workers have been accounted for, Husky Energy's Duvall said.

Essentia Health facilities in Superior, including the entirety of St. Mary's Hospital, were also forced to evacuate and reroute patients to another, larger Essentia-run St. Mary's Hospital in nearby Duluth, Minn. Authorities earlier said the fire was out, but it later reignited, sending up billowing clouds of thick, black smoke. "When you see that kind of smoke, it means you're getting a lot of unburned hydrocarbons".

Specialists from Williams Fire & Hazard Control of Port Arthur, Texas were hired by Husky Energy and were flying to the scene on Thursday to direct efforts to battle the blaze.

"The most significant danger that's concerning me is the evacuation itself, ensuring that people leave in a safe and orderly fashion", Superior Mayor Jim Paine told reporters. Refinery manager Kollin Schade said the smoke was from burning asphalt that was so hot that firefighters were unable to attack the fire to try to put it out.


Still, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced it was opening an investigation into the company's safety practices, the second time the agency has looked into the refinery in three years. Superior officials said they did not know when people would be allowed to return to their homes.

Douglas County officials posted an update Thursday evening saying the fire is extinguished but asking residents in the evacuation area to stay away from their homes for at least another two hours. Another five are being treated at St. Mary's Hospital in Superior, Talarico said. But she said it's clear people shouldn't be breathing it in and she wonders how it will affect the water and air quality.

A contractor who was inside the building told WDIO-TV that the explosion sounded like "a sonic boom".

No damage estimate was available.

The refinery, which can process up to 38,000 barrels of oil a day, had additional workers on site preparing for a plant-wide overhaul, he said. It produces gasoline, asphalt and other petroleum products primarily for northern markets.

Husky Energy of Calgary, Alberta, bought the refinery previous year for $492 million.

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