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The Latest: Officials: Fires at plant to keep burning

PORT NECHES, Texas (AP) — The Latest on the explosions at a Texas chemical plant (all times local):

6:25 p.m.

Officials in Texas say they’re allowing fires at the TPC Group plant to keep burning in an effort to depressurize its pumping and storage systems.

Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick, the top county official, said at a news conference Thursday that the reason the fires will continue is because “we don’t want any more explosions.”

Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Adam Adams added that while volatile organic compounds were detected by some of the 20 teams monitoring air pollution in the area, none of them detected levels higher than five parts per million, the agency’s “action level.”

Officials plan on reassessing the area’s evacuation order on Friday morning. Port Neches Mayor Glenn Johnson says he can’t really stop people from going back to their homes, but he’s advising residents to “use caution” and shelter in place. Johnson says law enforcement officers are patrolling in increased numbers.

Johnson says he’s “cautiously optimistic” that displaced families might be able to return to their homes permanently by the weekend.

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1:30 p.m.

A sheriff says there are no lingering air quality risks a day after two massive explosions rocked a Texas chemical plant, but mandatory evacuations remain in effect due to ongoing danger from flames, explosions and debris as the fire rages.

Jefferson County Sheriff Zena Stephens tells TV station KFDM that the evacuations cover a 4-mile radius, affecting about 50,000 people. A 10 p.m. curfew also is being enforced.

Government officials and TPC Group, the company that owns the plant, released a joint statement Thursday. It said air quality results from 20 monitoring stations around Port Neches “continue to show no actionable levels” above state and federal standards.

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11:45 a.m.

More than 50,000 people in East Texas remain under a mandatory evacuation order as a fire continues to burn at a chemical plant, one day after two massive explosions there.

Three workers were injured by the explosions Wednesday at the TPC Group plant in Port Neches. The blasts filled the air with plumes of black smoke.

Port Neches fire Captain Tyler Herbert says the blaze is still burning and that a mandatory evacuation order covering a 4-mile radius remains in place.

Texas has seen multiple petrochemical industry fires this year, including one that burned for days near Houston and another that killed a worker at a plant in nearby Crosby.

The Associated Press