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St. John’s Parish Ends Evacuation Order Near Marathon Petroleum Refinery

A fire at an oil refinery in Louisiana triggered evacuations for a few hours on Friday and caused a large plume of smoke, authorities said.

The fire started before 7 a.m. central time after a petroleum product called naphtha leaked from a storage tank at the Marathon Petroleum refinery in Garyville.

People within a three-kilometre radius of the refinery have been ordered to evacuate, Saint-Jean-Baptiste parish president Jaclyn Hotard said at a news conference Friday morning. It also issued an emergency declaration.

Hotard said the evacuations were a precautionary measure, but she acknowledged the fire was “alarming”.

On Friday afternoon, the company said the fire had been brought under control and Hotard lifted the evacuation order.

Naphtha is used to make gasoline and exposure to it can cause respiratory problems. No injuries were immediately reported and local authorities said air monitoring in the surrounding area recorded clear readings.

Refinery officials said any “impacts” were confined to their site, but local officials said the plume was moving west. They urged anyone within five miles of the plant to stay indoors.

Two schools were evacuated, the principal said. Emergency shelters were opened in two high schools. Garyville, about 30 miles northwest of central New Orleans, has a population of 2,100, according to the 2020 census.

The parish is in an 80-mile stretch of Louisiana dubbed “Cancer Alley,” where many chemical plants and oil refineries are located along the Mississippi River and where residents have been reporting cancers and other health issues for a long time. decades.

In the parish of Saint-Jean-Baptiste, local authorities conducted emergency drills with Marathon for “pretty much any incident,” Hotard said. Company spokesman Justin Lawrence said he did not know how many fires had occurred at the refinery in the past ten years.

The Cause of Friday the incident was unknown, according to Marathon. The storage tank was leaking, Lawrence said, and the naphtha that leaked ignited outside the tank. Lawrence could not tell how much naphtha was involved.

He said the fire was initially “a lazy flame” which reignited and became harder to control. Local firefighters were on the scene. The Louisiana State Police Emergency Services Unit was also assisting, the sergeant said. Katharine Stegall.

“We are doing everything we can to put out the fire,” Lawrence said.

In a statement, Marathon Petroleum said its personnel and local emergency crews were responding to the leak and fire and that no “offsite impacts were detected.”


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