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BioLab Chemical Plant Fire Sends Smoke Over Westlake, LA

A chemical plant fire near Lake Charles, Louisiana sent a billowing cloud of smoke over Interstate 10 on Thursday. Scenes from the incident showed multiple structures burning at the BioLab plant. Currently, no injuries have been reported from the fire. 

The fire broke out as responders worked to clean up damage caused by Hurricane Laura. Interstate 10 was already closed because of the severe storm.  

"There is a chemical fire in the Westlake/Moss Bluff/Sulphur area. Residents are advised to shelter in place until further notice and close your doors and windows. Follow the directions of local officials," the office of Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards tweeted. 

Is the BioLab Plant Fire Dangerous? 

According to ABC News, the burning plant manufactures chlorine-based products among other types of chemicals. Chlorine is a toxic substance and can be deadly if inhaled. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warns that chlorine quickly turns into a gas and spreads rapidly close to the ground. Chlorine exposure might be obvious to residents because of the pungent bleach-like smell that it emits. 

According to the CDC, exposure to chlorine causes the following: 

  • Blurred vision 
  • Burning pain, redness, and blisters on the skin if exposed to gas.  
  • Burning sensation in the nose, throat, and eyes 
  • Coughing 
  • Chest tightness 
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.  
  • Fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) that may be delayed for a few hours 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Watery eyes 
  • Wheezing 

Calcasieu Parish Police Juror Joe Andrepont warned that drivers should stay away from the area. He also told nearby residents to close their doors and windows, turn off their air conditioning, and to stay indoors.  

New Orleans Public Radio reported that the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) is at the scene and is monitoring air quality. Responders from LDEQ will continue to monitor air quality as the situation continues. Additionally, Louisiana State Police confirmed that a hazmat team is responding along with the Environment Protection Agency to help control the situation. 

Our team will continue to follow updates as more details emerge about this potentially dangerous situation.