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Wisconsin Oil Refinery Explosion Injures at Least 15 People
The blast sent thick, dark smoke across the city and prompted the evacuation of thousands of residents 10 miles downwind of the refinery, 2 miles to the north, and 3 miles east and west. All Superior schools closed Friday due to the fire.
Roughly 15 people were injured, Reuters reported.
Husky Energy, a Canadian company based in Alberta, said all the refinery's workers have been accounted for and no fatalities have been reported. Several people have been hospitalized and are reported to be in stable condition, the company said.
MPR reported that the refinery gets heavy crude from Alberta's tar sands and lighter crude from North Dakota's Bakken region. It processes around 50,000 barrels per day and has a storage capacity of 3.6 million barrels. It produces asphalt, gasoline, diesel and heavy fuel oils.
According to the Associated Press, a tank of crude oil or asphalt exploded about 10 a.m. Thursday at the refinery. The fire was put out about 11:20 a.m., but it reignited. Firefighters successfully extinguished the fires around 6:45 p.m., after burning for about eight hours.
"All indications are that the refinery site is safe and stable and the air quality is clean and normal," Superior Mayor Jim Paine wrote in a 5:38 a.m. Facebook post on Friday.
"I am lifting the evacuation order at 6 am this morning ... " he wrote. "Welcome home."
The Minnesota Red Cross supported evacuation and shelter operations, and provided food and hydration to first responders.
Governor Scott Walker tweeted about his visit to evacuees in a shelter on Friday.
"Certainly there will be plenty of research done to figure out what ultimately brought about this in the first place, but to see the kind of response as much as you don't want to have this in any community. To me, any time you don't have a fatality after an explosion, that in itself is a remarkable success story," Walker said.
The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board has sent a four-person team to investigate the incident.
"The emergency situation at the refinery is now over, and our focus in the days ahead will turn to the investigation and understanding the root cause of the incident," Husky Energy CEO Rob Peabody said in a statement. "Our thoughts are with those who were injured, and their families."
"Our deepest thanks to the emergency responders and members of the community who stepped forward with assistance. We also appreciate the support of businesses, and city and county authorities."
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