Texas City explosion on April 16, 1947
Houston Press staff photo
Aerial shot of ground zero showing the clouds of smoke from the explosion.
At approximately 9:12 a.m. on the morning of April, 16, 1947 the Grandcamp cargo ship exploded triggering one of the worst industrial disasters in American history. The explosion was caused by a fire in the hold containing ammonium nitrate fertilizer. The fire was discovered just before 8:00 a.m. The captain chose not to use water to put out the fire because it would ruin the cargo. Instead, he elected to fight the fire by battening down the hatches, closing the ventilators, and turing on the steam system. According to the Red Cross and Texas Department of Public Safety, there were 405 identified and 63 unidentified dead. Another 100 were classified as "believed missing" because no trace of their remains were ever found. Another approximately 3,500 people were injured. The damage was estimated at $100 million in 1947 dollars excluding loss of petroleum products that burned up and damaged refinery infastructure and pipelines. (From The Texas City Disaster website developed by Firefighters Local 1259.)