Multiple injuries in explosion, fire at La. chemical plant, official says

(CNN) -- A Geismar, Louisiana, chemical plant exploded and caught fire Thursday, causing multiple injuries and forcing authorities to evacuate the area around the facility, officials told CNN.

Authorities ordered residents within a two-mile radius of the plant to stay inside while crews battled the fire, Ascension Parish spokesman Lester Kenyon said. A Louisiana State Police dispatcher had previously told CNN the area around the plant was being evacuated.

The fire was still burning near midday Thursday but had been "greatly diminished" through the work of emergency crews at the plant and firefighters, the plant's owner, The Williams Cos., said in a statement.

The company confirmed injuries in the explosion and ensuing fire but said it did not know how many people had been hurt, or how severely.

The Iberville Office of Emergency Preparedness said six people had been injured and taken to hospitals by helicopter, according to CNN affiliate WAFB in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It was unclear if there were additional injuries.

Earlier video broadcast by WAFB showed flames and a plume of thick black smoke rising over one part of the plant. At least one other plume of smoke or steam could be seen rising from another part of the plant.

According to the company website, the plant produces approximately 1.3 billion pounds of ethylene and 90 million pounds of polymer-grade propylene each year, according to the company's website.

The station, citing state police, said two state routes have been closed near the plant, which is about 30 miles southeast of Baton Rouge.


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