Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell activated the Emergency Operations Center in Middletown, Connecticut on Sunday morning following an explosion that rocked the Kleen Energy plant. The under construction facility was rocked at 11:30 a.m. and an estimated 100 people were reported injured, four critically. At least two deaths have been reported with more fatalities likely.
According to the plant’s General Manager Gordon Holk, the injured included workers and contractors from O & G Industries, Ducci, and Keystone Mechanical Electrical, who were at the scene at the time of the explosion.
Witnesses reported that there were bodies everywhere, with some victims buried in the rubble. Approximately 20 ambulances were called to the site to transport patients to Middlesex Hospital. Injuries were categorized as broken bones, orthopedic injuries and bruises. Many of the injured were thrown 30-40 feet, resulting in pelvic and extremity fractures. Hospital spokesman Brian Albert indicated that several patients had been admitted and one was sent on to Hartford Hospital. St. Francis and Yale-New Haven Hospitals were also put on disaster standby.
The plant had been under construction for many years and was nearing completion. It was designed to generate electricity by burning natural gas. A test was underway at the time of the explosion. Operators were attempting a “blow down” of natural gas pipelines, a procedure that involves the purging of gas from the pipelines.
Witnesses reported that the explosion took place when workers switched on the plant’s energy generating systems during the test. The explosion took place in the rear of the largest building on the site. Over 100 firefighters from Middletown, Durham, Middlefield, Portland and Cromwell were dispatched to the scene to extinguish the fire caused by the explosion.
The blast has been categorizing as an industrial accident. Officials stress that it is not a public health threat nor is it an act of terrorism.
Governor Rell arrived on the scene shortly after 2:00 p.m. EST Sunday. A press conference was held at City Hall on Sunday evening.
See photos and news conference video coverage below.