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Explosion at Houston Plant Rattles the City, Injuring at Least One Person

One person was injured after a large explosion at an industrial site in Houston jolted residents from their beds in the early hours of Friday morning, blowing out windows and scattering debris across roughly half a mile.

The Houston Police said in a statement on Twitter that a building explosion took place at the 4500 block of Gessner Road in the city’s northwest, adding that traffic would be blocked in the area. Though the explosion was at near a number of industrial sites, residential areas were close by.

“This explosion was felt quite a distance,” the police chief, Art Acevedo, said at a news conference Friday morning. An employee of the site has not been accounted for, he said.

One person was taken to a hospital, the Houston Fire Department said on Twitter. The department’s chief, Samuel Peña, urged residents to “avoid the area” but said there was no order to evacuate.

“We will advise of the possible cause of the explosion as soon as we have concrete info,” he said. The department said in a tweet that a hazardous material team was on the scene.

The explosion appeared to have taken place at the site of Watson Grinding & Manufacturing, a machining and manufacturing company, Reuters reported.

Chief Acevedo said at the news conference that there were no reports of any accumulation or hazards to the air quality. But before any investigation into the cause of the explosion could begin, he said, crews must secure supply lines at the site.

Residents whose homes were damaged in the blast would be able to evacuate to a church nearby if needed, he said.

Footage from local news helicopters flying over the area showed a crumbled building burning and surrounded by police and fire vehicles in the early morning darkness. Members of emergency response crews picked their way through wreckage, scanning flashlights over the rubble.

As dawn broke, footage showed a blackened shell of a building near the center of an industrial lot, and crumpled roofs and shorn walls on the structures around it. Smoke rose from one location.

Chief Acevedo said that flames and small explosions had continued for some time at the “plant” after the initial explosion. He said that the debris field stretched “about half a mile.”

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez of Harris County said in a tweet that reports began coming into the sheriff’s dispatch center around 4:15 a.m.

Nearby residents woke abruptly when the explosion rattled their neighborhood before dawn on Friday, with many describing feeling their homes shake.

“It was pandemonium because we just didn’t know what was going on, it was a rather loud explosion,” one unnamed local resident told Houston news outlet ABC13 Eyewitness News, which was broadcasting from the scene about an hour after the explosion.

He pointed to the cracked window of his house behind him, but he said that no one inside had been hurt.

Another Houston resident, Joey Charpentier, said a camera mounted on his window captured the moment of the explosion and posted the video on Twitter: It showed a ball of flames erupting in the distance, past the trees of a yard. He noted that the camera was knocked down when the blast shattered the window.

Mike Iscovitz, a meteorologist for the local Fox news station, shared an image from the outlet’s radar feed that recorded the moment of the explosion as a brief but widespread flash across much of the Houston area.

Crowds of pajama-clad neighbors gathered on the streets as they surveyed the damage. A number of garage doors appeared bent and battered and the windows of some houses shattered.

Footage from other news outlets filming on Gessner Road show debris, some of it on fire, scattered across the road.

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