More than 50,000 people in southeast Texas will spend Thanksgiving away from their homes as evacuation orders remained in place after two powerful Wednesday blasts at a chemical plant in Port Neches, about 80 miles east of Houston.

A fire that sent large plumes of dark smoke into the sky continued to burn Thursday at the TPC Group plant, which manufactures butadiene and other chemicals used in synthetic rubber, fuels, lubricant additives and plastics.

Jefferson County Sheriff Zena Stephens said there are no lingering issues with air quality after the explosions, but the risk of further blasts hurling debris and flames spreading necessitates maintaining the evacuation order and a 10 p.m. curfew. There’s no word on when residents will be allowed back home.

“It’s Thanksgiving, a lot of people are displaced, they can’t go home,” Stephens told TV station KFDM.

Government and company officials released a joint statement Thursday saying air quality results from 20 monitoring stations around Port Neches “continue to show no actionable levels” above state and federal standards.

The Houston Chronicle said TPC Group, which until 2010 was known as Texas Petrochemical, “has a spotty environmental record in recent years.’’

The newspaper reported that earlier this year TPC Group was fined $214,000 for excessive emissions and pollution, including a failure to report incidents. The Chronicle also said a storage tank at the company’s Houston facility caught fire last year, although there were no injuries.

Texas has seen multiple petrochemical industry fires this year, including one that burned for days near Houston and another one that killed a worker at a plant in nearby Crosby.

Contributing: John Bacon, USA TODAY; The Associated Press



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