A series of explosions Thursday at an oil refinery in northern Wisconsin resulted in multiple injuries and an evacuation of homes and schools in the area.
According to WGN, a fire official confirmed the initial blast occurred at around 10 a.m. local time at the Husky Energy oil refinery in Superior.
Upon further investigation, emergency personnel determined the explosion originated in a small tank filled with either asphalt or crude oil.
The blast reportedly occurred as staff members were preparing to shut down operations at the plant prior to performing repairs. One contractor on the scene said shutdowns are especially hazardous events for an oil refinery.
But shortly after noon local time, a second explosion took place.
— Duluth News Tribune (@duluthnews) April 26, 2018
“There is a report of multiple casualties … Multiple agencies have responded,” Superior Fire Chief Steve Panger said in a statement to the Duluth News Tribune..
According Panger, at least five people were transported from the emergency scene to medical centers in nearby Duluth after the initial explosion. Their conditions were not available as of the most recent updates available.
WDIO-TV in neighboring Duluth, Minnesota reported that medical officials said each of the victims arrived at the hospital in a conscious and alert state.
Early reports placed the estimated number of casualties significantly higher.
Officials reported the initial fire had been extinguished by about 11:20 a.m.
But a second wave of employees and contractors were rapidly leaving the scene after 12:30 p.m. as a series of seven or eight more explosions took place moments later.
Douglas County Deputy Medical Examiner Paul Stein told the News Tribune that he heard there are 20 injuries but no fatalities.
Superior Fire Department reportedly sent units from each of its three engine departments. Duluth also dispatched a command vehicle to the explosion site.
The contractor working inside the refinery described the event as a “sonic boom.”
At a nearby bank, one employee said it was evident there had been a major explosion.
Shortly after 1 p.m. local time, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office ordered a broad evacuation for everyone within two miles of the refinery. They also suggested anyone who lives or works within 10 miles south and three miles east and west evacuate to a safer area because of smoke and potentially toxic fumes.
Superior school officials said all public school students in the city were being evacuated, as well.
Roads surrounding the facility were blocked as authorities assessed the damage.
It is unclear from available reports how much of the refinery sustained damage or how much repairs are expected to cost.
The Canadian owners of Husky Energy bought the Wisconsin refinery last year from Calumet Specialty Products Partners for $490 million.
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