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Louisiana officials: One dead, at least 75 injured in chemical plant blast

By Michael Pearson and AnneClaire Stapleton, CNN
June 14, 2013 -- Updated 2246 GMT (0646 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: A 29-year-old man from Hammond was killed, officials say
  • NEW: Authorities update the condition of those who were hospitalized
  • Aside from a controlled burn, the fire at the chemical plant is out, official says
  • Hospitals report three people in critical condition

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(CNN) -- A plume of thick smoke rose over a Louisiana chemical plant Thursday after an explosion and fire that left at least one person dead and forced authorities to ask people as far as 2 miles away to stay inside to avoid exposure to potentially toxic fumes.

Zachary Green, 29, of Hammond was killed in the blast, the Louisiana State Police said.

A dramatic image provided to CNN affiliate WAFB by a plant worker who did not want to be identified showed workers running from a towering orange column of flame ripping through part of the plant.

At least 75 people were injured in the blast, said Christina Stephens, a spokeswoman with the Louisiana Department of Health.

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"Generally they were people who came in with burns, cardiac issues and blunt trauma," she said.

Aside from a controlled burn at the Williams Geismar plant, the fire was out, Louisiana State Police Trooper Jaren Sandifer told CNN.

Firefighters and a hazardous materials team were evaluating the situation, Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeffrey Wiley told reporters.

"We think we have a stable situation," he said.

iReport: Video shot just after the explosion

As Gov. Bobby Jindal traveled to the area to meet with emergency workers, authorities lifted the shelter-in-place order for nearby residents early Thursday afternoon. Four nearby chemical plants remained under a similar order, Ascension Parish spokesman Lester Kenyon told CNN.

At least one person died, Sandifer said.

Three people were hospitalized in critical condition, according to information provided by hospitals who reported receiving patients from the blast -- Baton Rouge General Hospital, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and St. Elizabeth Hospital.

One person was in serious condition, 12 were in fair condition and one was in good condition, according to the hospitals.

About 600 people were at the plant when the explosion occurred, Sandifer told CNN.

It was unclear what caused the blast, he said.

The plant produces about 1.3 billion pounds of ethylene and 90 million pounds of polymer-grade propylene each year, according to the company's website.

The explosion in Louisiana comes two months after a deadly fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, on April 17. In that incident, 15 people died and a significant portion of the town was damaged by the explosion.

See also: Cause of Texas explosion "undetermined"

CNN's Joe Sutton contributed to this story.

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