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Residents told to shelter in place after chemical plant explosion in Tennessee

Residents told to shelter in place after chemical plant explosion in Tennessee

Police were dispatched to the Eastman Chemical Company in Kingsport, Tennessee.

A portion of the Eastman Chemical Co. plant can be seen along the South Holston River in Kingsport, TN. (CREDIT: AP Photo Wade Payne)
A PORTION OF THE EASTMAN CHEMICAL CO. PLANT CAN BE SEEN ALONG THE SOUTH HOLSTON RIVER IN KINGSPORT, TN. (CREDIT: AP PHOTO WADE PAYNE)

Emergency crews are responding to reports of an explosion at the Eastman Chemical Company in Kingsport, Tennessee, which sent flames and plumes of dark smoke billowing into the air on Wednesday morning.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Eastman said that they were “continuing to stabilize and assess the situation.”

Footage of the explosion shows flames and smoke rising from several locations on the plant, and nearby witnesses told WJHL-TV that they heard the sound of at least two explosions. An Eastman employee who was at the plant on Wednesday told the Kingsport Times News that the explosion was “very very loud,” and that it “blew and ripped part of the building off.”

Thus far, there have been no reported injuries from the incident. Employees at the plant were told to shelter in place, but that order was lifted a few hours after the explosion. Residents that live within a half mile of the plant were also told to remain indoors, with their windows closed and air-conditioning units turned off. That order has not been lifted.

In a statement, Eastman said that the explosion happened around 10 a.m. this morning, and called it a “process upset in the coal gasification area” of the Kingston site. Coal gasification is a process in which coal is converted into a product known as synthetic gas, or syngas. Syngas is comprised mainly of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, and can be used to generate electric power, or as the building block for manufacturing certain chemicals.

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