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The Deadliest Industrial Accident in U.S. History

The blast shattered windows in homes 40 miles away.

April 16, 2019 marked the 72nd anniversary of the deadliest industrial accident in U.S. history.

At least 581 people died in the disaster and another 8,500 people were impacted by the event.

According to the Galveston County Daily News, approximately 100 survivors of the Texas City disaster gathered together last weekend to remember those who lost their lives.

Back in 1947, a fire started on the SS Grandcamp, a vessel that was docked at the Port of Texas City in Texas. The ship was carrying nearly 2,200 tons of ammonium nitrate, which is used as fertilizer or an explosive, as well as some small arms ammunition, machinery, and bales of twine on the deck.

The cargo exploded and shook the nation. The blast set off a series of fires and explosions that destroyed and damaged approximately 1,000 area buildings, shattered windows in Houston (which is 40 miles away) and even registered on a seismograph in Denver, more than 900 miles away.

Initially, the crew spotted the fire in the cargo hold and tried to control it by piping steam into the hold, which may have only made things worse by converting the ammonium nitrate to nitrous oxide.

The vessel detonated, setting off a chain reaction that blew up nearby cargo ships, destroyed a Monsanto Chemical Company plant and ignited refineries and chemical tanks on the waterfront.

One of the ship's anchors, weighing 2 tons, was found in a 10-foot crater more than 1.5 miles away.

The cause of the initial fire was never determined, though some speculate that a discarded cigarette may have been the culprit.

The damage of the blast is the equivalent to about $1.1 billion today, and it remains the seventh deadliest industrial disaster in the recorded history of the world.

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