Shelter established for displaced residents
HOUSTON – Two people were killed early Friday morning in an explosion that shook northwest Houston awake.
The blast was reported about 4:20 a.m. at Watson Valve Services near the corner of Gessner and Clay Roads.
Houston fire Chief Sam Peña said at least one person has also been hospitalized in the blast that resulted in propylene burning for several hours after the explosion. The identities of the dead and injured were not immediately released.
Peña said that firefighters are allowing the remaining fire to burn itself out, but that the fire is contained. Peña said there are no concerns over air quality at this time.
The Houston Fire Department said that local hospitals have reported that at least 18 people have driven themselves or been driver to an emergency room for minor injuries associated with the explosion.
Houston police Chief Art Acevedo said that there is no evidence that terrorism or an intentional act were involved in the blast, but a multiagency arson investigation has begun.
Peña said firefighters have searched about 190 homes west of the blast site so far. He said some homes have sustained significant damage, noting several of them have been moved off their foundations. Peña said debris from the explosion is being found at least a quarter-mile from the blast site. Both Peña and Acevedo said that residents who find debris in the yards should not touch it and should call 911 so that the evidence can be collected.
A shelter has been set up at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints at 4703 Shadowdale Drive. Buses to the shelter are picking up passengers at the corner of Gessner and Tanner roads.
People who live near the blast site described significant damage to their homes.
One man described the aftermath in his neighborhood as a “warzone.”
“(The explosion) knocked us all out of our bed, it was so strong,” said resident Mark Brady. “It busted out every window in our house. It busted everybody’s garage door in around here … and closer toward the explosion over here, it busted people’s roofs in and walls in, and we don’t know what it is … It’s a warzone over here.”
Another resident said her ceiling collapsed in on her mother who was asleep at the time. She said a neighboring family came to her aid.
Some schools closed
Cy-Fair Independent School District officials said both Bane and Dean elementary schools were closed because of the explosion. District officials issued the following statement:
“Due to the massive explosion, this morning and limited access to the area, Bane ES and Dean MS will be closed today to all students and staff. All other facilities will be open. In an abundance of precaution, students will remain indoors at nearby schools due to air quality concerns. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates on the website and social media as they become available.”
Spring Branch Independent School District officials said in a tweet that all facilities are open, but students and parents should expect transportation delays.
SBISD facilities are fine as of this time, and we plan for a regular school day at all SBISD schools. We anticipate transportation delays.
— Spring Branch ISD (@SBISD) January 24, 2020
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