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View Diary: Texas fertilizer plant was storing highly explosive ammonium nitrate (83 comments)

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  •  Yeah. That was famous. (5+ / 0-)
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    Mr Robert, Fishgrease, myboo, basket, DSPS owl

    What happened to the ship is probably what happened to the plant. This is from the Wikipedia article:

    The 38% ammonium nitrate, used as fertilizer and in blasting agents, was manufactured in Nebraska and Iowa and shipped to Texas City by rail before being loaded on the Grandcamp.
    It was manufactured in a patented process, mixed with clay, petrolatum, rosin and paraffin wax to avoid moisture caking. It was also packaged in paper sacks, then transported and stored at temperatures that increased its chemical activity. Longshoremen reported the bags were warm to the touch prior to loading.
    Around 8:00 a.m., smoke was spotted in the cargo hold of the Grandcamp while it was still moored at its dock. Over the next hour, attempts to put out the fire or put it under control failed as a red glow returned after each effort to douse the fire.
    Shortly before 9:00 a.m., the captain ordered his men to steam the hold, a firefighting method where steam is piped in to put out fires in the hope of preserving the cargo. Meanwhile, the fire had attracted a crowd of spectators along the shoreline, who believed they were a safe distance away.[3] Spectators noted that the water around the docked ship was already boiling from the heat, and the splashing water touching the hull of the ship was vaporized into steam. The cargo hold and deck began to bulge as the pressure of the steam increased inside.
    At 9:12 a.m., the ammonium nitrate reached an explosive threshold and the vessel then detonated, causing great destruction and damage throughout the port. The tremendous blast (29.3756°N 94.8916°W) sent a 15-foot (4.5 m) wave that was detectable nearly 100 miles (160 km) off the Texas shoreline. The blast leveled nearly 1,000 buildings on land. The Grandcamp explosion destroyed the Monsanto Chemical Company plant and resulted in ignition of refineries and chemical tanks on the waterfront. Falling bales of burning twine added to the damage while the Grandcamp's anchor was hurled across the city. Sightseeing airplanes flying nearby had their wings shorn off,[4] forcing them out of the sky. Ten miles away, people in Galveston were forced to their knees; windows were shattered in Houston, Texas, 40 miles (60 km) away. People felt the shock 100 miles away in Louisiana. The explosion blew almost 6,350 tons of the ship's steel into the air, some at supersonic speed. Official casualty estimates came to a total of 567, including all the crewmen who remained onboard the Grandcamp, but many victims were burned to ashes or blown to bits, and the official total is believed to be an undercount. All but one member of the Texas City volunteer fire department were killed in the initial explosion on the docks while fighting the shipboard fire, and with the fires raging, first responders from other areas were initially unable to reach the site of the disaster.

    For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life. - Albert Camus

    by Anne Elk on Fri Apr 19, 2013 at 02:38:31 PM PDT

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