West Virginia chemical plant blast spurs stay-inside order

BELLE, W.Va. (AP) — An explosion that injured four people at a West Virginia chemical plant and shook surrounding homes prompted authorities to impose a shelter-in-place order before giving the all-clear early Wednesday.

It happened after 10 p.m. Tuesday at the Chemours plant in the Kanawha County community of Belle, the county commission said in a statement. The injured people included two workers and one person hit by debris, Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper told WCHS-TV.

Officials believe the explosion involved chlorinated dry bleach and methanol, Carper said.

“We’ve had at least one very serious explosion and a working fire at the plant,” Carper told the news station.

People who lived in the area reported their houses shook. Emergency officials announced a shelter-in-place order for 2 miles around the plant and a nearby road was closed before firefighters were able to extinguish the flames and allow people to move around.

Belle Mayor David Fletcher, who also is a volunteer firefighter, said the blaze was extinguished before midnight. “Right now we feel like everything is in pretty good shape,” he told the TV station.

Still, it was a very hard day, Kanawha County Manager Jennifer Herrald told The Associated Press.

“We lost a law enforcement officer and they laid her to rest, our community was already hurting over that event, and then to end the day with an explosion at a chemical plant when our first responders were already grieving and exhausted from dealing with a funeral — it was a hard situation to go through this evening,” she said.

Chemours formed as a spinoff from DuPont in 2015. The 723-acre site is located along the Kanawha River about 10 miles southeast of Charleston. The town of Belle has about 1,100 residents.

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This story has been corrected to show the explosion hit Tuesday, not Wednesday.

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