Remembering the worst ever U.S. industrial accident, 1947: 576 dead at Texas City

April 16, 2014

April 16 marks the 67th anniversary of the Texas City Disaster.

It’s a day Texans, and all Americans should note.  It’s an event we need to remember, because every point of the disaster is something we forget at our very great peril.  Thinking such a disaster could not happen again, and failing to train for these same conditions, contributed to the disaster last year in West, Texas.

67 years ago, in the harbor at Texas City, a large cargo ship being loaded with tons of ammonium nitrate caught fire and exploded, setting fire to other nearby ships, one of which exploded, devastating much of the town. In all, 576 people died in Texas City on April 16 and 17, 1947.

View of Texas City from across the bay, in Galveston, April 16, 1947

View of Texas City from Galveston, across the bay, after the explosion of the French ship SS Grandchamp, April 16, 1947. Photo from International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1259

The incident also produced one of the most famous tort cases in U.S. history, Dalehite vs. United States, 346 U.S. 15 (1953). (Here is the Findlaw version, subscription may be required.)

The entire Texas City fire department was wiped out, 28 firefighters in all. The International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 1259 has a website dedicated to the history of the disaster, with a collection of some powerful photographs.

More below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »


Texas no stranger to massive explosions and disasters

April 17, 2013

April 16 marked the 66th anniversary of the massive explosions of fertilizer on ships in the harbor of  Texas City, Texas — 576 people died in that 1947 disaster.

Last month marked the 76th anniversary of the massive natural gas explosion that destroyed the school in New London, Texas, killing about 300 people.

A few minutes ago, a disaster/rescue official in West, Texas, said he fears as many as 100 dead in the explosion of the fertilizer plant there, earlier this evening.  Another fertilizer tank may explode, and the town is being evacuated.

New London, Texas, school after the March 18, 1937, natural gas explosion that killed about 300 people.

New London, Texas, school after the March 18, 1937, natural gas explosion that killed about 300 people.

Texas City explosion, 1947

View of Texas City from Galveston, across the bay, after the explosion of the French ship SS Grandchamp, April 16, 1947. Photo from International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1259. 576 people died in that series of explosions.

The fertilizer tank that exploded contained several hundred times the amount of the same explosive used to destroy the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

How can any town ever prepare for that?

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Worst ever U.S. industrial accident, 1947: 576 dead

April 14, 2007

April 16 marks the 60th anniversary of the Texas City Disaster. A large cargo ship being loaded with tons of ammonium nitrate caught fire and exploded, setting fire to other nearby ships, one of which exploded, and devastating much of the town. In all, 576 people died in Texas City on April 16 and 17, 1947.

View of Texas City from across the bay, in Galveston, April 16, 1947

View of Texas City from Galveston, across the bay, after the explosion of the French ship SS Grandcamp, April 16, 1947. Photo from International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1259

The incident also produced one of the most famous tort cases in U.S. history, Dalehite vs. United States, 346 U.S. 15 (1953). (Here is the Findlaw version, subscription required.)

The entire Texas City fire department was wiped out, 28 firefighters in all. The International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 1259 has a website dedicated to the history of the disaster, with a collection of some powerful photographs.

More below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »


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