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Welcome to stuff you should know a production of I Heart Radio. Hey, and welcome to the podcast, I'm Josh Clark, and there's Charles W. Chuck Bryant and there's Jerry over there.
And this is stuff you should know about, say, Natural Disaster Edition, but unnatural disaster edition. Industrial disasters, what they call these human caused.
In fact, from what I saw, what we're going to talk about today, the main thing we're talking about today is the largest industrial disaster in United States history still. Oh, still. Yes. Wow. 70, almost 75 years on. Man said, this is a big one. Yeah, everything about this was really big, but in basically all the wrong ways, right. We're going to talk today about a disaster called the Texas City explosion.
And sadly, you might say which one, because there's been multiple massive explosions in Texas City. One of the reasons why is because Texas City is has made a name for itself as one of the premier petrochemical ports in the United States and indeed possibly the world. I think it was up until World War two, it was like the fourth largest port in Texas. But I think since World War Two, it's grown even more. And I know for a little while there, BP had a refinery that was its most profitable oil refinery in the world, which is really saying something.
I mean, that's a big deal. BP is an enormous company with multiple refineries. So, you know, for the the biggest one, the most profitable one to be in Texas City, it kind of put Texas City on the map in some circles.
Yes. A Texas city is above the Gulf of Mexico. And like you said, it's a port town founded in the late eighteen hundreds by some Minnesota hunters. And they said, you know what, I think we can set up shop here. I think we can dig up a canal, set up a rail line. Yeah, we got some really good deep water and we could be a good shipping port.
I want to know how they like what what conversation led to that. Like what hunting trip ends up and you basically building a port town in a city that's about as far away from your home as you can get in the same country?
Yeah, I mean, there were some real go getters, I guess. Yeah, I guess so. They couldn't relax and kill animals.
Right. God. So that's what happened to Texas City. I mean, that's how it was kind of founded and it was like think refineries, think warehouses and chemical plants.
World War Two comes around. And the military, of course, as well will be sort of controlling this area for a while because it's pretty valuable port for us and we're going to ship munitions in and out of here. World War Two comes and goes. And then after the war, about a year and a half after the war, it is run by civilians again. And let's just say that it was a little more of a relaxed scene than it was when the military was running the show.
Yeah, the military ran like a tight ship, basically. And yeah, well, there's just a big difference between when the military is running a port and when the ports run by just a whole bunch of different private companies. You know what I'm saying? Minnesota hunters. Exactly. So that's not to say it was just some loose U.S. place or anything like that. But just comparatively speaking, I'm one of the one of the other things that Texas City had going against it on the morning of April 16th.
Nineteen forty seven is that there weren't really a lot of standards and regulations for handling chemicals. And then we didn't have an enormous grasp on just how chemicals worked at that time.
And so all of this all of these things kind of came together is kind of slightly lax oversight and just kind of like much more relaxed attitude toward cargo and then a lack of awareness about just what kind of dangers different cargoes pose, just kind of set things up for to take a bad turn.
Yeah. So on the morning of April 16, there were three ships docked in the port that was most notably the USS Grand Camp, which was it was it was a military ship at one point.
But I think we gave it to France is like a sorry, Europe is kind of destroyed. Why don't you take the ship and just use it for whatever you want to do? And it was converted to a cargo ship, which is which was on the day of April 16th, and it was beside the SS high flyer. And that was beside the third one named after somebody. What was that one, the Robert Queen or the William Queen?
Oh, wait a minute. Which one was it? Well, it was the Wilson Burkin, even better, right? The Billy Queen, as they called it. Yeah. And I believe all three of those were liberty ships, right?
Yeah, they were World War Two ships. And they were I think the SS high flyer was being fixed at the time, but was still loaded down with stuff, as was the grain camp. And we'll sort of detail what was in the cargo because it's all very, very key.
Yeah, it's really important. So for five days leading up to April 16th, Steve, I think that's how you say it. But basically dock hands, I don't know why you wouldn't just say dock hand, you know, but the stevedores I mean, I hope I'm saying that correctly, Chuck.
They had loaded up the grain camp with 23 hundred tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, and these were a 100 pound paper sacks akin to the kind of sex that you would buy like Portland Cement in these days, right? Yeah, there are some other cargo, sisal twine, peanuts. There are some machinery. There are some cotton. There were 16 cases of ammunition, I think, like for small arms, ammunition. But for the most part, it was a lot of ammonium nitrate.
And the same went for the S.S. High Flyer to which, as you said, was in the next birth, it was loaded with a thousand tons of ammonium nitrate and then also very crucially, 2000 tons of sulfur. And all of these were also in those same hundred pound paper bags. So at the time, like I was saying, people didn't realize like this is this is a it was a big deal that there was that much ammonium nitrate just sitting around in this port at that time.
Yeah, it's a it's a crystal like solid. It's white. A lot of times it's used for nitrogen, for agricultural fertilizer. But if you combine it with fuel oils, it can be very explosive and actually used for that for like mining and construction and stuff like that. But it's not like, you know, if you tap the side of the bag, it's going to explode. It's pretty safe as long as it's on the up and up and it's being stored properly.
But if it starts to absorb moisture, then it's sort of like Portland cement again. It's just going to harden into a block. Right. And then if that thing is in a solid block, it's going to be just a little bit more volatile and a little bit more dangerous if ignited.
Yeah, I mean, like it's not even considered flammable as far as I know. And certainly in nineteen forty seven, it wasn't considered flammable because if you walked up to some of this, this ammonium nitrate, these pellets and just held the lighter to them, they wouldn't catch fire. That's not really what they do. What they do is they oxidized. Things they basically create free radicals, like we talked about in the free radical episode. Yeah, which sets off like a chain reaction and because the oxidise, they concentrate and condense and produce basically oxygen where it was otherwise present, when when that that is combined with the fire, it makes a big time fire.
So that's bad enough, right. Like if you set them off, like it'll it'll combustor, it'll help something else combust more efficiently and more, more at a higher temperature. But the problem, the big problem with ammonium nitrate is there is a point where it can reach a high enough heat that it itself decays and degrades. And when that happens, it splits into two gases, nitrous oxide and water vapor, which are like, well, that's that's great.
You know, you just get super duper high off. A one in the other one just makes you a little moist.
Maybe so, maybe so in small enough amounts.
But when this happens in a large enough amount, especially when there's ammonium nitrate is in one big melted block, the chain reaction can happen much more efficiently. And when those gases are are produced, when the when the thing decays and separates, they expand really quickly. And that produces an explosion. And the force is the the energy that's released from an explosion of ammonium nitrate decaying and converting into nitrous oxide and water vapor is monumental like compared to atomic bomb blast.
Basically, if you have enough of it, say, 20, 300 tons and a thousand tons and a couple of ships just sitting in port. All right, that's a great place for a cliffhanger, I think. I think so, too. All right. We'll be right back after this. We all deserve to know what we're putting in our bodies and why, especially when it comes to something we take every day, which is why rituals, clean, vegan friendly multivitamin is formulated with high quality nutrients and bioavailable forms that your body can use in what you're not going to find is sugars, GMOs, major allergens, artificial colorants or synthetic fillers.
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All right, so this stuff, the cargo arrived by train to Texas City, and it was probably already heating up a little bit on this train and maybe already getting to the point where it was a little unstable but volatile at least.
And the it gets transferred to the ship. It continues to sort of heat up and the crew and everything. Like you said, there wasn't a lot of awareness about kind of anything like this at the time. So to them, it was just another cargo hold. They might have said, like, you know, be careful with this stuff, guys, or maybe not even that. Yeah, but they definitely didn't know, like, heat bad for this stuff.
They said you owe me two bucks from lunch yesterday. That's what they said when they were loading this up. So around 8:00 a.m. in the morning, these workers, they started noticing that there was smoke and vapors coming out of the ship. So there was some kind of a fire going on. No one knew how it started or what happened. There are some people anecdotally to say it was a cigarette that was not in the it could have been that wasn't in the official report, which also wouldn't be surprising.
Well, what I saw I saw later on, Chuck, that the fact that these things were in those paper sacks, that if they were heating up, they were just going to continue to heat up, being packed tightly in the hold of this unventilated ship. They were just going to get warmer and warmer. And it's possible they that the ammonium nitrate caused the paper to combust, catch fire, spread to other paper sacks. And then you had a positive feedback loop where it just kept getting of the fire, kept getting bigger and bigger and crucially, very important, hotter and hotter.
Right. So the captain sees this happening. There are people kind of pouring in and looking around at what's going on. The captain says batten down the hatches, pull these tarps over them and start pumping steam in there, which apparently was a method at the time to put out a fire on a ship when you didn't want to ruin the cargo as opposed to just blasting it with a fire hose, which would cause all this stuff to just break up like Portland Cement.
He starts pumping steam in there and that just started hitting. Everyone knows steam is going to heat stuff up. So that just started and the moisture made a bad situation a lot worse really quickly.
Yeah, I get the impression that had the captain's name was Captain Charles de Gisborne. He had he made the decision to just go ahead and let the cargo be ruined and have the fire put out with fire hoses. This all might never have happened. It was. And I mean, I understand where he was coming from. He didn't want to ruin the cargo if he didn't have to, because steaming out of fire aboard a ship was an accepted firefighting technique works and it could conceivably save a lot of the cargo.
So it's not like he just made this ridiculous, stupid mistake. It's just in hindsight, it was probably the decision that led to this catastrophe.
Yeah. I mean, I think more than anything, it's like you said, it was the time when there was not much regulation and sort of in the dawning of the chemical age, people didn't know. Right.
And plus, also at the time, Texas City had a volunteer fire department, which I would guess wouldn't have quite as much jurisdiction and could be told by a captain like, no, no, no, just go away. Like, I'm going to handle this myself rather than being like, no, we're going to put the fire out on your ship.
Yeah, it's a good point. So the steam is making things worse. It pumped into the holds and everything's heating up, everything's getting moist. And like we said, moisture is no good for this stuff. And it did it started to convert to these solid masses. And, you know, there's going to be gas releasing and it's building up all this pressure because they had batten down the hatches and covered them with tarps. And it so much so that it blew these hatch covers off at about eight thirty in the morning.
Just that alone would have been spectacular, and I'm sure it was. But when those hatches blew off, all the smoke that had been kind of stuck in the hole inside the ship started billowing out. And the thing apparently about ammonium nitrate burning is it produces really kind of mesmerizing colored smoke from one of the witnesses. It was apparently Samin orange and purple. And so the smoke coming out of it started to attract people like like onlookers who were like, what's what's going on?
I want to go see this giant weird fire that's going on down at the port. And something like 300 people, including entire families, kids from the local school came over. All sorts of people just kind of stopped what they were doing and came to watch this weird fire at the port and apparently KGB sea out of Galveston, which is just ten miles down the coast out in the Gulf of Mexico. They were warning people to stay away, but apparently that just alerted more people that there was something going on who went down to go check it out themselves.
Yeah. So they they knew that there was a big problem at this point. They did call the firefighters in and the tugboat to maybe try and get that thing out of there. And at this point, like you said, the heat was just so great that even a fire hose isn't going to do much, just kind of just vaporizing when it hits. Yeah, that's because of the massive amounts of heat. And then, you know, this whole thing started at eight.
At eight thirty is when the hatches blew. And then at nine, 12, the thing exploded. And we're going to kind of list through a pretty horrifying list of of impacts from like distances like a seismograph in Denver, Colorado, picked up this explosion. Yeah.
And this is, again, in the southernmost part of Texas, right? Yeah. Like they felt it in Louisiana, you know, like three thousand foot firebombs and cargo flying up in the air.
So, yeah, the enormous amount of energy that I was talking about that was released by this 2300 tons of ammonium nitrate in retrospect, I think has been the I saw it compared to a two point seven kiloton blast.
Yeah. Which would put this blast of this ship blowing up somewhere on the order of about one third. No, I'm sorry. One fifth of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb, which just completely leveled that city. This is about a fifth that size. So it was still a really substantial, enormous blast. And one of the first effects it had is that it blew this Liberty ship, this huge World War Two era cargo ship, a couple thousand feet into the air in multiple pieces to just shower out downward as hot metal shrapnel onto the surrounding city.
And that's not accounting for the shrapnel that immediately blew outward as the gases expand, expanded right into all of those onlookers and the people who are fighting the fire around the port. Yeah, there was they had a couple of two ton anchors, one of those went about a mile and a half away in the air.
Like we said, you could feel it in Louisiana. There was a Monsanto and a Union Carbide, two different chemical plants kind of right beside it. They were just flattened, basically, just not even there anymore.
Yeah, I saw that one of the warehouses, Warehouse Zero at the port, which is I think the one that was closest to the ship. The historian from Houston, I think said that it just disappeared like it was just gone, like it wasn't there any longer. Like the word disintegrate works in a lot of instances when you're describing what happened to a lot of the structures and people who were around this this blast. Well, yeah. I mean, that's the obvious thing.
You know, there were hundreds of onlookers. There were people that work there. There were all twenty eight members of the fire department. They were all killed basically instantly. Anyone within that zone was killed instantly. Some people, like you said, just just not even able to recover enough body parts to identify humans at that point.
Yeah, that proved to be a real problem. So, like, first of all, the fact that the entire fire department, apparently one there was one survivor from the fire department, but he was out of town at the time. That's why he survived. But the whole fire department and all of their equipment was immediately wiped out. One of the problems was with an explosion like this in a place like this is that it ruptures lines and pipes and all of those petrochemicals that are being refined suddenly catch fire.
So now you have these out of control fires in the buildings and structures that are left standing. And you no longer have a fire department or any fire equipment to put it out for a little while. So the immediate impact outside of the blast was also the fires that were lit just right after this, too.
Well, I mean, you've got you know, you've got the metal shrapnel. But then you've also remember there were peanuts and twine and cotton and all this stuff. So that's these are like fireballs being launched, basically starting fires all over the place. It wasn't just in the immediate area. And like you said, because the fire department was then out of commission. That's that's real trouble.
Yeah. So it took a little while for more aid to show up. But apparently this this explosion was so bad and the catastrophe was so great. The Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, Texas National Guard and then firefighters from surrounding cities all came out to help. And this wasn't just like putting this chemical fire out, but also like trying to, you know, rescue people from rubble. Like, there's really a lot that we could sit here and say.
But if you have a computer in front of you, like just look up pictures from the Texas City explosion of nineteen forty seven, it is just unreal what happened to like enormous steel buildings just turned into like twisted metal.
And this is like, you know, the middle of a workday. So there were people trapped all over the place in this debris. So there was a huge rescue operation that had to start but was delayed because most of the people who were tasked with that kind of thing had all been killed in the initial blast.
Yeah. So remember earlier we said that there were three ships there. This one blows up.
And obviously, you know, it's a it's a full on like 9/11 scene at this point with just how chaotic it is. People are not noticing that right next door, the S.S. High Flyer also, remember, was loaded with this stuff and also with sulfur, which makes it become unstable. And this thing had been unlogged. I mean, I'm surprised it's just the integrity of these ships is the only reason those weren't just blown to bits to like it was kind of right next to it and it was still intact at least, and it was blown from its moorings and drifted over and kind of attached itself to the Wilson Biggin, which was again in the slip next to it.
And I think there were some crew members aboard in there that I guess were just protected by that thick steel, right?
Yeah, from what I understand. And they were kind of still doing their thing for a little while. And they were finally, because the the high flyer caught fire as well, they were finally forced out by the smoke because this is some noxious, noxious smoke. This isn't I mean, this isn't just like wood burning smoke. This is some really bad chemical smoke that can mess you up. It's crazy that these sailors stayed aboard for an hour, but they're finally forced off a ship.
But they tell people like, hey, this is this is on fire. Everybody's like, have you seen the other problems we have over here in the fire department? Just got basically vaporized. So the fire was allowed to continue on the high fire for hours, hours and hours like. That blast happened at nine, 12 a.m., and it wasn't until the afternoon that somebody else rediscovered the fire aboard the high flyer and started to kind of like raise the alarm about this.
Still, this is such a chaotic scene that there wasn't anything immediately done about it. And it wasn't until 11 p.m. that they're finally like, oh, this is a really this is a bad dream, because not only do we have a thousand tons, tons of ammonium nitrate aboard the high flyer, there's that sulfur you mentioned, Chuck. And like you said, it makes it even more unstable in that, you know how ammonium nitrate oxidizes things. Yes.
Sulfur is like food to that stuff is oxidized sulfur. It's just like piling on this oxidizing fuel to make the blast even more energetic. So it would it would be a really big problem if the high fire blew up. So they brought in some tugboats and a fire boat, I think, from Galveston and started to try to take it out of the birth, to tug it out to sea, to let it burn out or blow up or whatever it was going to do.
But I guess it was stuck so fast that that they couldn't get it out. Yeah, I mean, I guess this thing was knocked. I guess just sort of wedged in there from that first explosion, and I think they worked on it for a couple of hours, they started at about 11 p.m. and then it looks like by 1:00 a.m. they had stopped that process. And at 110 and this is now on April 17th, you know, early next morning, the high flyer exploded as well.
And this was even more violent.
The only I mean, it's not a saving grace at all because everything was already leveled. But the only reason it didn't cause more death and more destruction, sadly, is because everything was already destroyed and most people were already dead. Yeah.
And plus also, they knew enough by this time that they needed to clear the area that there wasn't anything they could do. So everybody who was working in the rescue operation was told to leave. So there I just I don't know if there were any more deaths from the high flyer blowing up. But the problem was, is there any fires that might have been put out or relet and other structures that may have been spared from the initial blast were now leveled or caught fire or both?
So it was a big problem that the high fire blew up as well.
It sunk the Wilson keynoted. Did it? Sunk it. And it was. It was. Yeah. I can only imagine, too, also, if you survived that first one, to have another blast like that, even while you were away from and you knew was coming, would just do something to the nerves that would be really difficult to recover from. Yeah, for sure. You want to take a break? Yeah, we'll take a little break and we'll talk about sort of the results of the devastation and a couple of other incidents right after this.
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OK, so, Chuck, one thing that we didn't say was that the initial explosion by the grain camp created like a 15 foot tidal wave that washed inland and people died almost in creative ways in this disaster. And one of those ways was those petrochemicals. I think there was a molasses refinery that started to get mixed in that kept the petrochemicals burning in the water when it mixed with them. When this tidal wave blew out, when it blew in, I'm sorry, it was on fire.
So it actually caught people on fire. It caught people on fire on the way back out to sea. And people who survived the initial blast were actually swept out and drowned from this, too. There were people who died in airplanes that had come around to kind of circle the area were blown out of the sky. There were people who died in buildings that collapsed. There are people who died from shrapnel falling out of the sky and killing them, even though they were miles away, like there were there was so much death and destruction that it's really difficult to get across what happened to this poor little port city that hadn't done anything to anybody that just suddenly blew up.
Yeah. In the end, the official death toll was close to six hundred five hundred and eighty one people, one hundred and thirteen of which were just vaporized.
No trace was ever found of one hundred and thirteen people, casualties, up to 5000. The numbers kind of vary, but anywhere from thirty five hundred to five thousand. And you know, Texas City was not a very big place. It was about sixteen thousand strong. Right. So this was just devastating to the city, into the region. It took about a week to put out all these fires and I think a full month plus to recover whatever bodies they could recover at that point.
Yeah, the final body wasn't found until mid-May. The there was there were people who were never, like you said, accounted for. There were there were the converse of that was true, too. There were parts of people that were never identified. And one of the accounts that I read was, like I was saying, was written by a I think a University of Houston historian named Cheryl Loures door froths in the in the journal Houston history. But she recounts somebody mentioning a woman who was trying to identify her husband, who is lost in the disaster, and she had to sort through hands.
They had a collection of hands that this woman was trying to figure out which one belonged to her husband. And like, that's just nuts to hear. But if you can even begin to put yourself into that woman's shoes. Yeah, the reality of this of being in that room is like looking at different hands and then also not just the horror of that of like having to look through body parts that may or may not be your husband's. But then the self-doubt like, is that my husband's hand?
Like, I don't remember what it looked like, you know, like that. Just your mind messing with you on top of the horrific experience that you're already undergoing. But she was one of many because something like sixty one people, I believe, were interred without being identified. But their their remains were kind of assembled and and put together in a memorial service that was attended by something like thousands of people, I believe. So, Chuuk. So if there was sixteen thousand people and that many people were hurt or killed by this blast, you can imagine how quickly this little town was overwhelmed with all these casualties.
And so they were getting people like every which way, trucking them over to Galveston, like getting them wherever they could, whatever hospital they could find. But very quickly, the high school gym was taken over to serve as a field hospital. And then shortly after that, the morgue. And one of the stories that stuck out to me was the Boy Scouts were pressed into service to basically help out whoever they could in these poor little like like teenage and preteen scouts are like working in this makeshift morgue in their high school gym, like imagine the impression that had on them the rest of their life, you know.
Jeez, I know. And that crazy, like every aspect of this story is just nuts.
It's very sad. Yeah. And of course, the financial loss was huge. About one hundred million dollars in property loss, 500 million in lost petroleum products, and that's about 700 million and three point five billion in today's dollars. I think there is sort of buried beneath the berms, there is a memorial park where 63 unidentified victims are buried. Yeah, that's who I was talking about. Yeah. And there's that anchor that we talked about. I don't know if it was the one that actually blew the mile and a half away, but at least one of the anchors is is a monument at the park, along with a scarred propeller from the high flyer at the entrance to the port there at Texas City.
So that that funeral procession that they had that attracted, I think, something like 5000 mourners was a real community effort. There were something like 50 plus funeral homes from 28 different cities that all participated. And each of these 63 unidentified people were there remains, I should say, were put in their own individual caskets and buried in the memorial park, which is still, you know, there. That park is still there with the anchor and everything. But it was it's just it's such an enormous, weird catastrophe and just such a devastating thing, especially looking back 70 years to read about.
But when you do read about it, if you can just kind of put yourself in mind of what that was like, you know, trying to recover from that, it's astounding that Texas City did recover. A lot of people moved and just said not only do I think the city's never going to come back from this, I don't know if I can come back from this. But the city actually did come back and they did build back, from what I understand, even bigger than before, which is how that BP refinery that ended up blowing up, that became the most profitable and BP's entire company because the city built back even better than before.
That's great. It is great, I mean, not great that it exploded again in 2005, obviously, but great that they were had to stick to it ness to come back. Right as a city. So, you know, obviously following something like this, there's going to be a lot more regulation going on. The US is going to step up federally and say, hey, wait a minute, we really need to take a look at how we're handling these chemicals, how we're storing these things, how we're shipping these things.
And a lot of changes were made here and around the world. But it's not to say that that completely prevented this from happening again, because in Beirut just last year, in August of twenty twenty, there was another big cargo of ammonium nitrate that had been sitting in a warehouse for seven years. It's no one is exactly sure why it ignited this time. But there was a dock worker that said that there were fireworks stored nearby and they did find thousands of kilograms of fireworks recovered from a warehouse at that port.
And this explosion was, you know, it was a crater about four hundred and sixty feet wide. And, you know, it was about as big as the Texas City blast.
I so I saw both. I saw that it was about as big and I saw that it was about half the size.
But I mean that even at half, you know. So, yeah, it go look at video of what's astounding about that Beirut blast is there happens to be people who are filming when it happened because there was a fire. I remember when it happened. Yeah. So you've seen that that like that white cloud. That's that water vapor expanding right in the the you can't see it, but there's nitrous oxide gas in there as well. So imagine twice that size.
That's that would probably be about the size of that first Texas City blast in nineteen forty seven. Yeah, I mean, I remember seeing it on the news, and I don't remember if they mentioned Texas City, but yeah, I mean, this is stuff that was just stored down there for like seven years, soaking up that that warm, kind of moist Mediterranean breeze, not the way you should handle and store this snow.
And like the story behind, it's kind of interesting, like it was started in Georgia, not our Georgia, but the Republic of Georgia onwe en route to Mozambique in the apparently the owners were like, we're not making enough money on this this trip. So we're going to divert over to Beirut and pick up some more freight. And the crew said, no, we're not going to do it's going to make the wait dangerous. So they balked. Port fees started racking up and the owners apparently just decided to abandon the crew, the ship and the cargo.
The cargo, once it was impounded, should have been sold off, but it wasn't instead of just, like you said, sat there, stored incorrectly for six years until something caused it to blow up, which is I mean, just the idea that it was just negligence that led to that catastrophe is it's even worse. I think that's something that's missing from the Texas City disaster. There wasn't really any negligent act, maybe a mistake or a bad choice, but no one was particularly negligent about it.
So I think that's it kind of makes the Beirut blast even worse, that people were supposed to be doing stuff that they didn't do in. A lot of people died as a result.
Yeah, I think the BP refinery in 2005, they had to pay out about 50 million bucks for that one after they did a a little safety audit. And that safety audit they found and this is before the blast, actually, they did a safety audit and they found that a lot of people that worked at this plant, it says, came to work with, quote, an exceptional degree of fear of catastrophic incidences. Yeah, incidents, end quote.
And that's a little bit of a OSHA nightmare.
Everything that I've read about that was that there was a direct result of BP cutting safety in favor of higher profit margins, that that's what happened. That's what allowed this plant to deteriorate. And the machinery just didn't work. But they traced this explosion. This is an oil refinery explosion. It had nothing to do with ammonium nitrate. But the the I think whatever whatever chemical they put in gas to boost the octane level, they turned the machine on that does that.
And somehow, like all these components to the to gasoline started vaporizing out into the air. It started shooting out of this tower because the pressure was overloaded and there was so much gas vapor in the air that somebody had a pickup truck running nearby and it got sucked up into the air intake and the engines started revving. And that's actually what ignited the whole thing. All of this gas vapors, pickup truck sucking in gas molecules that were just vaporized in the air around it.
Crazy in Texas City again.
It's crazy. So you got anything else? I got nothing else. Well, if you want to know more about the Texas City disaster, you can go look that up. I would strongly recommend reading Sheryl Loures Dorff Ros's Changing Lives in a Heartbeat Journal article and also a big shout out to fire engineering dot com. They had a good one and then the local twelve fifty nine. The Texas City Firefighters Union has a really comprehensive overview of the Texas City disaster too.
So maybe check those out for even more details. And since I said that, it's time for listener mail.
Yeah, I'm going to call this well, I'm going to call it what Ryan called it while I'm done, but I'm over it. Hey, guys, long time. First time I thought I'd tell you you had me duped for a long time when I first started listening to the shows a few years ago, and probably for a year after that first episode, I honestly thought there was a list of key words that Josh referred to toward the end of the episode.
Whenever he says, Well, since I said blank, it's time for listener mail for an.
This is very cute. For an embarrassingly long time, I really thought that the blank word was from a predetermined master list and that you had revealed that list of words to the audience in an early episode.
Well, I guess like the magic word and Pee wee's Playhouse.
Yeah. Is that what it was? Yeah.
This guy was a really love pee wee's Playhouse started listening to increasingly older episodes and hopes that I would hear that list or catch a trend toward the words used. Josh's transition with that statement at the end of every episode is just so smooth. Hey, there you go. Thanks, man. It wasn't until one episode when Josh's word was so mundane, so common. It's probably the or if or something along those lines that I finally realized there is no list I had been for.
This is really fell from his eyes and he was very fine.
Well, since you said scales, those random words are just that random. Actually felt a bit disappointed when I realized this, but it actually took some of the mystery out of the show. But I'm over it now. Whether or not it's good to admit had been fooled by this for a long time is up for debate. But let me tell you about this for a while. I hope you think of me every time Josh transitions to listener email. From now on, I totally will.
Yeah. Take care and keep doing what you're doing because it's a fantastic show.
And since I said show, dot, dot, dot, dot. That's great.
That is from Ryan. Special. Thanks, Ryan. Thanks for getting in our heads like that. Apparently we got in your heads too. So it's only fair, don't you think, Chuck?
Yeah. And just right then I didn't think we had a listener mail. And then look what pops up.
Ryan partial saves the day again and only Ryan knows what I'm talking about.
I just ruined his life again. He's back in the game. If you want to get in touch with us and try to get in our heads like Ryan did. So we have to think of you every time we say something about listener mail or what have you, you can write to us, send us an email to Stuff podcast and I heart radio dotcom. Stuff you should know is a production of I Heart Radio for more podcasts, my heart radio, is it the radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite shows?
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