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Major Explosion Shakes Houston

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HOUSTON -- Firefighters are on the scene of a huge explosion and fire at a chemical plant near Fondren and South Main in Southwest Houston.

People reported feeling multiple explosions from miles away just before 6 p.m.

A four-block area near the Marcus Oil & Chemical Plant was evacuated as a precaution according to HFD District Chief Tommy Dowdy. He says at least five people have been transported to area hospitals by ambulance with minor injuries.

At least two people were taken by ambulance to Memorial Southwest Hospital. Hospital spokeswoman Jamie O'Rourke said they are being treated for minor injuries. She said the hospital has been told to expect as many as six more patients.

Several people at a nearby church were treated for minor injuries caused by falling tiles. Other people who live nearby reported broken windows, ceiling fans falling, TVs crashing and cracks in the wall.

"When it happened, it shook literally the foundation of the house," said James Campbell, a nearby resident. "You could see this big plume of smoke billowing into the air and it was really quite a sight to see. It was just really scary to feel something like that and not know what it is."

Police and firefighters urged residents to stay inside their homes but there were no evacuations.

"I seen the sky lit up. I thought it was an airplane crash," said a nearby resident named Audrey. She was sitting in her car when she felt the explosion shake her car and looked up to see the flames. "I'm so shook up I can't hardly talk."

Several streets in the area were closed.

Air 11 pilot Mike Silman first spotted the flames from the downtown area.

"We saw this thing when it happened -- huge explosion, I'm talking flames 100 feet or so in the air," Silman said.

The fire department reports three or four night shift employees have been accounted for.

There are several residential neighborhoods, churches and a private school near the plant.

Greg Ervin said he and his wife felt the explosion from 20 miles away.

"We were in the upstairs loft of our home in Inwood North and the blast vibrated our home and shook the windows," Ervin said in an e-mail to 11 News. "It sounded like a distant sonic boom."

People as far away as League City, Alvin and Kemah felt the explosion.

Nearly three hours after the initial blast, Air 11 pilot Mike Silman reported he could still see still small explosions coming from the plant.