Smoke covers the areas surrounding a chemical plant in Westlake, Louisiana on Thursday. The fire and ensued chemical leak at BioLab are the result of Hurricane Laura striking the area last night.
The plant manufactures “chlorine-based products including toilet bowl tablets, chlorinating granules, and biocides,” according to Forbes.
Chlorine can be extremely dangerous to humans when heavily exposed. The CDC reports immediate signs and symptoms may include blurred vision, difficulty breathing, vomiting, as well as burning and blisters on the skin. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also cites that chlorine gas is low-hanging, as it is heavier than air. In order to prevent residents from getting chlorine poisoning, the Lousiana governor tweeted precautionary advisement.
Governor John Bel Edwards warns citizens in nearby areas to remain inside: “Shelter in place, close your windows and doors and TURN OFF YOUR AIR CONDITIONING UNITS.”
In videos and images posted to social media, eyewitnesses see billowing clouds around the area. San Antonio meteorologist posted to Twitter an image of the visible leak. He says it’s an “extremely dangerous situation.”
Another visual of the looming clouds was posted by Jorge Ribas, a video-journalist at the Washington Post. Afterward, the “unknown” leak was confirmed as the Lake Charles BioLab fire leak.
The plant shut down before Hurricane Laura hit, in preparation for the disaster. Col. Kevin Reeves, superintendent of Louisiana State Police, reports the fire was due to some of the plant’s products reacting and decomposing during the storm, reports Weather.com.
A statement from the owner of the chemical plant assures, “We are deploying a specialized team to the site, and we are working with first responders, local authorities and environmental agencies to contain and mitigate the impact of this incident as quickly as possible.”