Texas City Explosion 1947-04-16 Universal Newsreel
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Published on Mar 9, 2013
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"TEXAS BLAST! SPECIAL RELEASE! FIRST PICTURES Footage of the Texas City explosion of 1947 great disaster footage."
Unfortunately, this newsreel clip is silent.
Public domain film from the Prelinger Archive, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and mild video noise reduction applied.
The Texas City disaster was the deadliest industrial accident in U.S. history. The incident took place on April 16, 1947, and began with a mid-morning fire on board the French-registered vessel SS Grandcamp which was docked in the Port of Texas City. The fire detonated approximately 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate and the resulting chain reaction of fires and explosions killed at least 581 people, including all but one member of the Texas City fire department. These events also triggered the first ever class action lawsuit against the United States government, under the then-recently enacted Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), on behalf of 8,485 victims...
More than 5,000 people were injured, with 1,784 admitted to twenty-one area hospitals. More than 500 homes were destroyed and hundreds damaged, leaving 2,000 homeless. The seaport was destroyed and many businesses were flattened or burned. Over 1,100 vehicles were damaged and 362 freight cars were obliterated—the property damage was estimated at $100 million ($1.04 billion in today's terms).
A two-ton anchor of Grandcamp was hurled 1.62 miles (2.61 km) and found in a 10-foot (3 m) crater. It now rests in a memorial park. The other main five-ton anchor was hurled 1/2 mile (800 m) to the entrance of the Texas City Dike, and rests on a Texas shaped memorial at the entrance. Burning wreckage ignited everything within miles, including dozens of oil storage tanks and chemical tanks. The nearby city of Galveston, Texas, was covered with an oily fog which left deposits over every exposed outdoor surface...
TIME Magazine, April 28, 1947, p. 22:
NATIONAL AFFAIRS: DISASTER: "Pluperfect Hell!" The morning sun shone warm and bright. It looked like another great day for the war-fat Gulf port town of Texas City, Tex.— "The Port of Opportunity." Stores were busy, prosperous people "howdy'd" one another in the streets. Down along the waterfront, $125 million worth of oil refineries, tin smelters and chemical plants labored mightily to assure Texas City's future. Down there too was the only small blot on the day— the French freighter Grandcamp, loaded with ammonium nitrate fertilizer and docked some 700 ft. from the great Monsanto Chemical Co. plant, was afire. At first only the crew, the longshoremen and the local fire department troubled about the Grandcamp. But as the smoke rolled blacker, some 200 people gathered at the dock to watch. By 9 a.m., the fire fighters, who knew something about the explosive fury of nitrate, figured they had better move the ship out into Galveston Bay. Twelve minutes later it was too late. In one tremendous thunderclap, the Grandcamp vanished. Hot steel screamed uptown. A flaming wall of oil-covered water rolled over the docks as the blast picked up a steel barge and flung it 100 yards inland. Two light planes that had been circling over the harbor plummeted down together with 300-lb. chunks of ship's steel. Then, in a splitting series of explosions (one of which flipped a fire truck on top of the beached barge), the Monsanto plant and most of the rest of the waterfront blew up...
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