Four injured in fire at Exxon’s Baytown, Texas plant

By Arpan Varghese

(Reuters) -Four people were injured when a fire erupted on Thursday morning at an Exxon Mobil Corp complex in Baytown, Texas, one of the largest refining and petrochemical facilities in the United States.

There were no fatalities and those injured were in a stable condition, while other personnel were accounted for, Exxon said.

Emergency response teams were working to extinguish the blaze more than five hours after it erupted at about 1 a.m. on Thursday, the company said.

The fire occurred in a hydrotreater unit at the oil refinery that had been shut on Wednesday due to a bypass line leak, people familiar with plant operations told Reuters. The injured were contractors who had been repairing the leak.

Three of the injured were flown to hospital by Lifeflight rescue helicopter and a fourth person was taken by ambulance, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said on Twitter.

He said initial reports had indicated there had been some type of explosion at the plant. Social media users said on Twitter that a blast shook buildings in the area.

An Exxon official told a news conference the blaze had affected a unit that produces gasoline.

The Baytown plant houses a chemical plant, an olefins plant and the country’s fourth biggest oil refinery, with capacity to process 560,500 barrels per day of crude.

The facility spans about 3,400 acres along the Houston Ship Channel, about 25 miles (40 km) east of Houston and employs about 7,000 people.

The olefins facility, which began operations in 1979, is one of the largest ethylene plants in the world, according to the company’s website.

Production was reduced across the Baytown refining and petrochemical complex in August 2019 because of a fire in a propylene recovery unit at the olefins plant.

As many as 37 workers were injured in another fire at the olefins facility in July 2019.

(Reporting by Arpan Varghese, Bharat Govind Gautam, Akriti Sharma and Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru, Erwin Seba in Houston; Additional reporting by Paarth Gururajan and Seher Dareen; graphic by Vijdan Mohammad Kawoosa; Editing by Edmund Blair and Kirsten Donovan)

La Palma volcano spews lava again after brief pause

By Jon Nazca and Nacho Doce

LA PALMA, Spain (Reuters) -The volcano on Spain’s La Palma has begun spewing lava and smoke again, researchers said on Monday after activity had earlier slowed to a near halt, while some coastal villages locked down in anticipation of the lava reaching the sea.

The Canary Islands’ Involcan volcanology institute confirmed the renewed eruption via Twitter while Reuters witnesses saw a column of white smoke rising from the cone after several hours of calm.

Involcan and the National Geographic Institute had said earlier on Monday the explosions and tremors around the Cumbre Vieja volcano had slowed down but the calm was short-lived and the eruption resumed shortly before 11 a.m. local time (1000 GMT).

Authorities locked down the coastal areas of San Borondon, Marina Alta and Baja and La Condesa where the superheated lava flow is expected to hit the Atlantic Ocean, likely triggering clouds of toxic gas and explosions.

“People must follow the authorities guidance and remain in their home with doors and windows closed,” the Canary Islands emergency services said on their Twitter account.

Local airline Binter said it would resume flights to and from the islands on Monday afternoon if conditions remained favorable. The airport reopened on Sunday after a brief closure due to volcanic ash but all flights were cancelled.

After a new vent opened on Sunday, Reuters drone footage showed a river of red hot lava flowing down the slopes of the crater, passing over homes, and swathes of land and buildings engulfed by a black mass of slower-moving, older lava.

Since the volcano started erupting on Sept. 19, the flow of black lava has engulfed more than 230 hectares, the European Union satellite monitoring service Copernicus said, swallowing hundreds of houses as well as roads, schools, churches and banana plantations and forcing thousands to evacuate.

No fatalities or serious injuries have been reported, but about 15% of the island’s banana crop could be at risk, jeopardizing thousands of jobs.

La Palma, with a population of over 83,000, is one of an archipelago making up the Canary Islands.

(Reporting by Guillermo Martinez, Jon Nazca, Nacho Doce and Marco Trujillo in La Palma and Inti Landauro in Madrid; Writing by Inti Landauro and Nathan Allen Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)