30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947

30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947

Jacob Miller - September 18, 2017

The Texas City disaster was an industrial accident that occurred on April 16, 1947, in the Port of Texas City. It was one of the deadliest industrial accidents in U.S. history.

The disaster started with a fire onboard the French-registered SS Grandcamp, which was docked in the port and carrying approximately 2,200 tons of ammonium nitrate, a chemical compound predominately used in agriculture as fertilizer but also used as an industrial explosive. The fire ignited the explosive compound and the initial blast set off a chain reaction of fires and explosions in other ships and nearby oil-storage facilities.

The initial fire had attracted spectators to the shoreline, who believed they were a safe distance away. The water around the docked ship was boiling from the heat of the fire. At 9:12 a.m. the ammonium nitrate exploded sending a 15-foot wave off the Texas shoreline. The Grandcamp explosion destroyed the Monsanto Chemical Company plant and resulted in the ignition of refineries and chemical tanks on the waterfront. The shock wave was felt as far away as Louisiana. The two-ton anchor was blown 1.6 miles.

The disaster killed at least 518 people, including all but one member of the Texas City fire department.

30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
A first-aid and disaster relief station at night. Rescue workers, victims, and medical personnel move about the area. Cots are set up in rows. On the far right, a man lying under a blanket is being examined by military personnel. The aid trailer has the numbers “32195” written on a window. Behind the trailer is a large building with some visible window damage. Texas City Library
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
A damaged fire engine sits amid debris down near a dock warehouse which appears to have only metal framework remaining. Texas City Library
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
A view of the docks near the port after the Grandcamp’s explosion. Notice all the debris floating in the harbor. Texas City Library
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
Rescue workers search through debris near the Monsanto Building. Texas City Library
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
The hull of the Wilson B. Keene lists in the waters of the port after the explosion. Texas City Library
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
The Longhorn II cargo ship rests on dry land, blown ashore by the explosion of the Grandcamp. Large pieces of twisted ship’s hull are heaped alongside the ship. Texas City Library
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
This photograph is taken from a raised perspective looking toward the grain elevator and the railroad shed, probably from on top a line of freight train cars at the far right after the second explosion. Texas City Disaster
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
Searching for survivors near the grain elevator after the second explosion. Texas City Library
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
One of the last photographs taken of the Texas City Volunteer Fire Department crew before the explosion. Marion Jack Donnis Westmorland with a hard hat on directly behind the Chief. Fire Chief Baumgartner center with hat on. local1259aiff
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
Firefighters spraying water on Grandcamps deck. local1259aiff
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
Billows of smoke rising from Texas city as seen from across the bay in Galveston. local1259aiff
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
A man walks below the 150′ LONGHORN II that was washed ashore by the tidal wave created by the GRANDCAMP exploding. The arrow points toward a destroyed city fire truck twisted together with another vehicle and a large section of the Grandcamp. This is from one of many post-disaster postcards. local1259aiff
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
This photograph was taken by Johnny Hendrickson, the photographer for the local news, on a tour of the devastated area Thursday. Stacked like child’s toys are vehicles which were near the S. S. Grandcamp when it exploded Wednesday. The sign left standing in the foreground is ironical. The vehicle, top right, was a Texas City ambulance in which a nurse and driver met death. Top automobile on left belonged to Father William Roach, killed when he rushed to the explosion area to administer to the dying. local1259aiff
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
5 million barrels of petroleum products consumed in flames, valued at approximately $500 million ($5.7 Trillion). local1259aiff
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
The explosion decimated many sections of Texas City. local1259aiff
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
Vehicles in a parking lot destroyed by the explosion and falling debris. local1259aiff

30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
150ft barge Longhorn II in background washed onshore by the enormous wave generated by the explosion. local1259aiff
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
A fire engine destroyed in the blast. Wikipedia
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
The wreckage of the Wilson B. Keene. The large piece of wreckage in the foreground may be from the Grandcamp. Wikipedia
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
Smoke from the ensuing fires, seen from a distance. Wikipedia
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
A five-story rubber factory beside slip #1 left in ruins. Wikipedia
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
An abandoned street littered with rubble from the destruction. Wikipedia
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
A business in downtown Texas City that was destroyed by the shock wave of the explosion. local1259aiff
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
Rows of identical coffins resting on boards near the grave sites during the mass funeral service for unidentified victims of the 1947 Texas City Disaster held at Memorial Park on June 22, 1947. Texas City Library
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
Receiving a check for disaster relief. Mayor Curtis Trahan is second from the left. Texas City Library
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
A close-up view of the altar memorial at Memorial Park in Texas City. On the front of the memorial is engraved In memoriam those who lost their lives in the Texas City Disaster of April 16, 1947. Texas City Library
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
The anchor of the Grandcamp now in Memorial Park. Texas City Library
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
A close-up photograph of the Italian marble angel statue in Memorial Park, which honors the Texas City firefighters killed in the 1947 Texas City Disaster. Texas City Library
30 Images of the Destruction from the Texas City Disaster of 1947
The wall at Memorial Park listing the names of those who lost their lives in the 1947 Texas City Disaster. Texas City Library

 

Sources For Further Reading:

Fire Hero – Memorial Monday: Texas City Disaster

NBCDFW – Survivors Remember Deadly 1947 Texas City Industrial Blast

The Ringer – How a Fertilizer Accident Led to the Deadliest Industrial Disaster in American History

Houston Public Media – Witness Recalls Texas City Disaster and How It Shaped Thinking on Safety

CS Monitor – Q & A: Texas Plant Explosion

The Verge – What Caused a Massive, Deadly Explosion at A Texas Fertilizer Plant?

BBC News – Causes of Texas Fertilizer Plant Blast Mooted

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