CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (CN) — Six people were hospitalized Friday and four are missing after a barge struck a natural gas pipeline in a South Texas port, setting off a massive explosion and fire that raged for several hours.
The dredging vessel Waymon L. Boyd struck the pipeline and caught fire around 8 a.m. in the inner harbor of the Corpus Christi Ship Channel, according to the Port of Corpus Christi.
“The pipeline has subsequently been shut off and the Port of Corpus Christi is working with the U.S. Coast Guard, who has the unified incident command, in the search and rescue of missing crewmembers,” the port posted on Facebook Friday afternoon. “The incident is still active and search and rescue operations are ongoing … At this time, there is no threat to public safety.”
The Coast Guard said one of its helicopter crews hoisted two injured crewmembers from the barge and took them to a local hospital. Corpus Christi Fire Chief Robert Rocha confirmed the other four victims were taken to the hospital by the fire department. He confirmed most of the smoke was blowing into rural areas.
“Two other patients refused transport,” Rocha said. “We’re trying to get a headcount of everybody that may have been involved or anybody who may have been around when the incident occurred.”
The barge’s owner, Orion Marine Group, confirmed that four crewmembers are currently missing.
“We are actively working with all local authorities, including the U.S. Coast Guard and the Port of Corpus Christi Authority, to support emergency response efforts,” the company said in a statement. “As we continue to gather more information our top priority is the safety of our crew and those impacted by the incident.”
The National Transportation Safety Board confirmed the barge struck a pipeline, tweeting that it is investigating the collision.
Governor Greg Abbott said the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is monitoring air quality in the area and that Division of Emergency Management and Department of Public Safety officials are “already on the ground” in support.
“The state stands ready to provide any additional personnel and resources needed to address this event and keep Texans in the area safe,” Abbott tweeted.
Corpus Christi City Council member Ben Molina posted on Facebook that four of the six hospitalized victims have since been transported to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. The extent of their injuries is currently unknown.