A fire at the largest oil refinery on the East Coast turned the early morning sky a bright orange and yellow and awakened startled residents with explosions that shook homes Friday.
The fire broke out at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refining Complex around 4 a.m., spokeswoman Cherice Corley said.
By 9 a.m., emergency workers were still trying to control the fire, said Corley. Nearby residents were asked to shelter in place, and roads around the complex were closed to traffic.
News video shows a massive fireball shooting flames into the sky. There are four confirmed injuries, all minor, that were treated on site.
The cause of Friday's fire was still unclear late Friday morning, but the explosion took place in the context of Iran telling the world "If we cannot sell OUR oil (due to US Sanctions) then no one else can." It is not known if an Iranian Sleeper Cell perpetrated sabotage which caused the explosion.
Corley said three explosions, felt for miles away, went off as the fire worked its way through the tangle of pipes carrying fuel across the complex. It happened at the Girard Point refinery, one of two at the PES complex in southern Philadelphia.
The company said it has not determined what exactly caught fire. Earlier, a Philadelphia Fire Department official had said the fire started in a vat of butane.
Philadelphia Energy Solutions says the 150-year-old oil refining complex produces 335,000 barrels of crude oil daily.
Plant and city firefighters were cooling down nearby tanks to prevent the fire from spreading.
"We're here in support of the Philadelphia Energy Solution (crews)," Craig Murphy, the city's deputy fire commissioner, told a media briefing at the site. "The fire is now different from when we got here."
Thick, black smoke billowed across the city when the fire started.
"The whole sky lit up yellow," Antonio Tindle told WPVI-TV. "The third explosion rocked my truck. The whole truck started to rock and it got kind of scary," he said.
Mark Broadbent, an analyst who covers refining at Wood Mackenzie, said gas inventory is already low and the blaze "will put additional pressure on the system."
TEXAS GAS PIPELINE ALSO EXPLODES
Witnesses in Texas say the ground shook underneath them, and the night sky was lit up by a fireball when a gas pipeline ruptured near an East Texas airport.
A pipeline ruptured around 10 Wednesday night near the Panola County airport on Highway 79 near County Road 301, just north of Carthage.
Though witnesses say there was little sound, what they saw after a gas pipeline rupture was unnerving.
“I didn’t hear anything; the first thing I saw was the orange flash. I was actually walking by the window when it happened. Extremely eerie, 'cause I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know how close it was,” said area resident Tyler Anderson.
The sheriff’s office was quickly on scene, and as a safety precaution, closed the highway near the airport.
“It was in a very remote area. A pipeline that was one fire. It was quickly determined that no residents were involved in this or in danger, [but] for a precaution we did close off Highway 79,” said Panola county sheriff Kevin Lake.
"I definitely saw the orange light before I felt or heard anything. I felt it rumble," said Becky Anderson.
Highway 79 was reopened this morning, and an investigation into what caused the rupture is underway.
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