A series of explosions sent fireballs into the air, followed by thick, black smoke. Some in south St. Louis’ industrial area described the aftermath as a war zone. Incredibly, no one was injured in the huge industrial accident Friday afternoon at Praxair, Incorporated. St. Louis fire officials estimate that about 9,000 pounds of propane exploded during the fire, which apparently failed to reach tanks of liquid oxygen and chlorine, which would have set off even more explosions. Still, the fire made a spectacular display as fireballs shot hundreds of feet into the air, one after another. Gas tanks exploded and shot up; some turning into firey missiles that landed on nearby trucks and cars, setting them on fire. A few tore into homes and businesses, landed in yards and gardens. Residents in the area found debris several blocks away. Authorities first evacuated the area within a few blocks, then widened the evacuation as the fire raged. The first call to firefighters was made at 3:20pm Friday. But the extreme heat and danger of the fire kept firefighters from getting too close for nearly two hours. The explosions and fire began to lessen around 4pm. Firefighters finally felt safe enough to enter the grounds of the plant after 5 o’clock.
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