Texas Chemical Fire Forces Mass Evacuation

A fire at a Texas chemical plant north of Houston that forced the evacuation of a Texas town of thousands of residents has been extinguished, local news media reported.

A fire at the El Dorado Chemical Co, which processes explosive ammonium nitrate into fertilizer, sent plumes of smoke into the air and spurred officials to order an evacuation from Bryan, Texas, the KHOU television station reported.

There were no reported casualties but about 22 emergency workers were being treated in hospital for respiratory problems, KHOU reported, Reuters reports.

The evacuation was "pretty smooth" because it was ordered in stages, said Kendell, who could not confirm the report of hospitalizations, AFP reports.

"I'm sorry if it's an inconvenience to people, but we're erring on the side of caution," Donoho said after the initial evacuation order was issued. "This is a dangerous chemical, and we don't want to wait and see if it's going to be bad. We need to take action now."

Dr. Eric Wilke, director of emergency medicine at the College Station Medical Center, said most people who had limited exposure to the fumes might have some irritation to their eyes and throat. "The biggest problem is if you get a healthy dose, it can cause significant lung problems," Wilke said, Austin American-Statesman reports.