explosion houston jan 2020
Buildings damaged after an explosion in Houston, Jan. 24, 2020. A large explosion left rubble scattered in the area, damaged nearby homes and was felt for miles away.
A massive explosion at a Houston manufacturing plant Friday morning killed at least two people, shook the entire region and destroyed multiple homes.

The blast occurred around 4:15 a.m. at Watson Grinding and Manufacturing in northwest Houston, fire and police officials said.

According to officials, two employees seen running from the plant said they smelled gas just before the explosion occurred.

At least one homeowner was hospitalized, officials said.

Dozens of homes were damaged and some were destroyed, Houston television station KTRK reported. Firefighters were going from house to house to check on residents.

Houston police chief Art Acevedo said the debris field extends a half-mile from the plant, Houston television station KHOU reported.

At least 200 structures suffered some type of damage, Acevedo said, and some homes were blown off their foundations.

"(The explosion) knocked us all out of our bed, it was so strong," resident Mark Brady told Houston television station KPRC. "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 war zone over here."

The explosion came from a 2,000-gallon tank filled with propylene, a flammable gas.

Only liquid oxygen was listed among the company's most recent chemical inventory report filed in 2015, the Houston Chronicle reported. The newspaper also pointed out that the Environmental Protection Agency only requires the disclosure of certain chemicals if they are stored in amounts greater than a specific threshold.

At least two schools near the blast area cancelled classes for Friday, the Chronicle reported. Others announced they would have classes as usual but keep students indoors all day.

It is unclear how many employees were at the plant at the time of the explosion, but at least one person is unaccounted for, the Chronicle reported.
houston explosion factory
© Michael Stravato / New York Times
A leveled building and broken windows and doors for half a mile after an explosion at a business in northwest Houston.
By mid-morning, the fire was contained and firefighters were allowing it to burn itself out, KPRC reported.

Multiple agencies are investigating the cause of the blast, Acevedo said during a morning news conference, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.