A liquid natural gas line ruptured and exploded at a plant near Plymouth, Wash. Monday morning, injuring five and sending shrapnel into a large tank nearby.

Because of the damage to the tank at the Williams Piping Company facility, authorities cautioned the possibility of another explosion and evacuated the homes and businesses in a two-mile radius, including Plymouth and Paterson, Wash., according to Benton County deputy sheriff Joe Lusignan.

Four of the injured employees were taken to local hospitals and one was flown to a burn unit, according to Benton County Fire Captain Jeff Ripley. Williams spokeswoman Michele Swaner told the Associated Press all 14 employees were accounted for after the explosion at the plant where liquefied natural gas is converted into vapor.

The damaged tank, which has the capacity to hold 14 million gallons of natural gas, was half full and leaking, Ripley said, and emergency shut-off procedures were successful in keeping more gas from entering the tank. A bomb squad will send in a remote controlled robot to survey the damage before crews enter the area.

All told, about 1,000 people live in the affected area. The Umatilla County Fairgrounds in Hermiston is open to evacuees. It is not known how long it will take to secure the site, but Ripley said residents should be prepared for a long wait.

About 120 emergency personnel responded to the plant, which is between Umatilla and Irrigon on the north side of the Columbia River. Residents on the Oregon side also experienced the blast.

– East Oregonian


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