HOUSTON – At least two people are confirmed dead following an explosion that shook Houston Friday morning.
The explosion occurred around 4:20 a.m. Friday at Watson Valve Services in the 4500 block of South Gessner Road near the Westpark Tollway, Houston officials said.
Officials initially said one person was hospitalized and one worker went unaccounted for following the blast.
Authorities don’t believe the explosion was intentional though a criminal investigation is underway, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said.
Acevedo asked residents who live nearby to search their homes and neighborhoods for any debris — including body parts — and to contact police if they find anything that could aid in the investigation.
At this time, it is unclear what caused the explosion. Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pena said firefighters are still in the process of securing pipes.
A chemical called polypropylene is burning due to the explosion, officials said, but it is not a hazard to air quality. Polypropylene is lighter than air and will dissipate, KSAT’s sister station KPRC in Houston reported.
Both Pena and Acevedo are urging the public to avoid the area, and patrol units are blocking off area streets.
Acevedo said many people in west Houston reported hearing a loud explosion and feeling buildings in the area shake.
Nearly every house in the area had extensive damage to their homes, including blown-out windows, damaged garage doors and more, KPRC reported.
Acevedo said after the explosion, officers went house to house to check on residents.
He added the explosion was heard as far as Kingwood.
Area resident Mark Brady told KPRC that the explosion “knocked us all out of our bed.”
“This is a disaster,” Brady said. “This is a big disaster. I really don’t know what happened … Houston we could use your prayers.”
Stay with KSAT 12 both online and on-air for more information.