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March 20, 2010
The Texas City disaster which was begun with the Grandcamp's explosion triggered the worst industrial disaster, resulting in the largest number of casualties, in American history. Such was the intensity of the blasts and the ensuing confusion that no one was able to establish precisely the number of dead and injured. Ultimately, the Red Cross and the Texas Department of Public Safety counted 405 identified and 63 unidentified dead. Another 100 persons were classified as "believed missing" because no trace of their remains was ever found. Estimates of the injured are even less precise but appear to have been on the order of 3,500 persons. Although not all casualties were residents of Texas City, the total was equivalent to a staggering 25 percent of the towns estimated population of 16,000. A fire discovered by stevedores preparing to resume loading of ammonium nitrate aboard the S. S. GRANDCAMP at Warehouse (Pier) "O", about 8 A. M., April 16, 1,947, resulted in the first of two disastrous explosions at 9:12 A. M., April 16, 1,947 which destroyed the entire dock area, numerous oil tanks, the Monsanto Chemical ompany, numerous dwellings and business buildings. The second explosion resulted from a fire in ammonium nitrate aboard the S. S. HIGH FLYER which occurred some sixteen hours later at 1:10 A. M., April 17, 1,947. Damage to property outside the dock area was widespread. Approximately 1,000 residences and business buildings suffered either major structural damage or were totally destroyed. Practically every window exposed to the blast in the corporate limits was broken. Several plate glass windows as far away as Galveston (10 miles) were shattered. Flying steel fragments and portions of the cargo were found 13,000 feet distant. A great number of balls of sisal twine, many afire, were blown over the area like torches. Numerous oil tanks were penetrated by flying steel or were crushed by the blast wave which followed the explosions. Drill stems 30 feet long, 6 3/8 inches in diameter, weight 2,700 pounds, part of the cargo of the S. S. GRANDCAMP were found buried 6 feet in the clay soil a distance of 13,000 feet from the point of the explosion. The initial explosion disrupted the sprinkler systems and the water supply to them, destroying all of the fire equipment owned by Texas City and wiped out much of the personnel of the department who were endeavoring to extinguish the fire aboard the S. S. GRANDCAMP. The loss of life was high. All firemen and practically all spectators on their pier were killed as were many employees in the Monsanto Chemical Company and throughout the dock area. For more information on the Texas City disaster, go to the memorial website of Firefighters Union Local 1,259 at http://www.local1,259iaff.org/disaster.html . Twenty-eight Texas City Firefighters lost their lives in this disaster. This clip is from the 1,948 film, The Texas City Disaster April 16, 1,947 by the Texas Department of Public Safety. The entire film is available at the US National Archive in College Park Maryland.