(Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)
Axiall's fire last December released more than 130,000 pounds of hazardous chemicals into the atmosphere.
Last Modified: Monday, December 30, 2013 12:35 PM
The number of people treated for injuries as a result of last week’s Axiall explosion has risen to 27.
Karen Lambert, director of marketing at West Cal-Cam Hospital, said nine people were treated at the hospital last Friday. Lambert’s announcement brings the total number of people treated for injuries related to Axiall’s Dec. 20 plant explosion from 18 to 27.
Lambert declined to comment on the nature of the injuries but added that all of the patients were released from the hospital after treatment. Earlier this week, Heather Hidalgo-LaFleur, director of communications at Christus St. Patrick Hospital, said 18 people were treated for injuries related to the incident. She added that all of St. Patrick’s patients have been released from the hospital.
Matt Felder, communications manager at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital, said no patients were sent to the hospital with injuries related to the incident.
Officials from Women and Children’s Hospital in Lake Charles did not return phone calls this week from the American Press.
Axiall’s plant explosion occurred last Friday afternoon in the plant’s Number 2 furnace of its PHH unit, which holds vinyl chloride and hydrochloric acid. A huge plume of smoke could be seen for miles billowing from the plant and wafting across Interstate 10. No fatalities or employee injuries were reported in the incident.
Axiall’s internal fire department extinguished the blaze within an hour. The company issued an all clear notice shortly before 3 p.m. on Friday.
In an email last Friday to the American Press, DEQ Public Information Officer Tim Beckstrom said “an explosion and fire” had occurred at 1:45 p.m. at Axiall’s plant in Westlake. Patricia Prebula, spokesperson for Axiall, also confirmed that an explosion had occurred at the plant.
Beckstrom’s email to the Press stated that EMS workers were called to the scene and that people were complaining of respiratory problems. Beckstrom’s email also stated that “unknown amount EDC dichloroethane, hydrochloric acid and vinyl chloride were released to atmosphere.”
Beckstrom sent a copy of the email to Greg Langley, press secretary at the state DEQ office, and Jean Kelly, the agency’s public information officer.
Earlier this week, Kelly said that while EDC dichloroethane, vinyl chloride and hydrochloric acid could have been released during the fire, the department had not gone on the record about whether any chemicals were released or how much may have escaped into the atmosphere.
The cause of the incident remains under investigation.