Storm Harvey: Explosions reported at flooded chemical plant as death toll rises to 31

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Explosions have been reported at a chemical plant near Houston after it was inundated with flood waters that have left at least 31 people dead.

Witnesses described smoke billowing out of the flooded Arkema plant in Crosby, Texas, this morning after it lost all power when storm Harvey struck leaving volatile chemicals unable to be refrigerated as they need to be.

A spokeswoman said before reports of two explosions emerged: “The fire will happen. It will resemble a gasoline fire. It will be explosive and intense in nature.”

Black smoke produced by the blaze is likely to irritate skin, eyes and lungs.

Arkema submitted a plan to government in 2014 outlining a worst-case scenario that said potentially 1.1 million residents could be affected by such an event over a distance of 23 miles, according to information compiled by a non-profit group.

But the company said on Wednesday that this worst-case scenario was “very unlikely”.

The fears of a blast came as the confirmed number of those killed rose to 31, including six members of the same family – four of them children.

Their bodies were pulled on Wednesday from a van that had been swept off Houston bridge into a lake.

Firefighters in Houston are continuing to search thousands of flooded homes to ensure no one was left behind. Authorities expect the death toll to rise further.

Harvey began as a hurricane before being downgraded to a tropical storm and is now considered a tropical depression.

For much of the Houston area, forecasters said the rain is pretty much over.

“We have good news,” said Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist with the Harris County Flood Control District. “The water levels are going down.”

But major danger remains for parts of the US Gulf Coast area that fall in its path.

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