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Evacuation order lifted for Texas towns rattled by blast

HOUSTON — Government officials on Friday lifted an order that required as many as 60,000 people to leave their homes in all or parts of four east Texas towns because of the risk of a catastrophic explosion at a burning petrochemical plant, the local sheriff’s office said.

The fire at the TPC Group petrochemical plant in Port Neches, Texas, continued to burn on Friday morning, but had been contained on Thursday after explosions on Wednesday damaged nearby homes and forced the evacuation order one day before the Thanksgiving holiday.

The fiery blast on Wednesday injured three workers, blew locked doors off their hinges and was felt in communities far from the site. The plant makes chemicals used in production of synthetic rubber, resins and an octane-boosting component of gasoline.

Firefighting crews continued to battle the blaze on Friday, according to TPC, and local mayors, fire officials were called to a meeting with the region’s top executive. Federal and state investigators were searching for the cause of the blaze.

Residents in the four communities near the site were ordered to leave their homes Wednesday afternoon when a major, secondary blast prompted fears of flames reaching large spherical tanks of the petrochemicals and setting off a blast that could cause catastrophic damage in a four-mile (6.4-km) radius from the plant. (Reporting by Gary McWilliams and Erwin Seba Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Lisa Shumaker)