'I thought we were all going to die': Workers tell of their terror when explosion in butane tank ripped through Philadelphia oil refinery sending fireball into the sky as 120 firefighters tackle massive blaze - but miraculously no one is seriously hurt

A huge blaze erupted after an explosion in a Philadelphia oil refinery butane vat Friday morning that triggered a series of deafening bangs and sent a massive fireball into the sky that could be seen for miles.
Some Pennsylvania residents who were jolted from their beds mistook the explosion for thunder, other witnesses thought they'd seen a meteor and noted debris fell from the sky into their neighborhoods and back yards. 
Footage posted on social media showed plumes of smoke towering from the Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) refining complex in South Philadelphia. 
Reuters reported a veteran refinery worker who was there when the fire broke out said: 'It was the worst I've ever experienced. It looked like a nuclear bomb went off. I thought we were all going to die.' 
In a video clip filmed by a shocked onlooker, he is heard yelling: 'Holy s**t! 
The blaze broke out around 4am and people 60 miles away in South Jersey said they heard the loud bangs. 



Those in Philadelphia told NBC their walls shook so violently that pieces of artwork fell to the floor. 
A neighbor who lives near the complex told NBC Philadelphia: 'I thought it was a meteor or something' after seeing an enormous black cloud mushrooming from the facility.   
One person wrote on Twitter that they were on I-95 when fire broke out and 'could feel the heat right through the car'. 
A witness named Jesse told Newsflare: 'I felt the heat, it was a quick intense heat after the fireball.' 
David Masur, executive director of nonprofit environmental group, PennEnvironment, told Philadelphia Enquirer: 'I was woken up by three loud boom, boom, booms. I thought an electric transformer in the neighborhood had exploded. It was jarring. I have two young kids in the house.
'If I live about a mile away and could hear it in the dead of night, you can imagine what it’s like if you lived next door and the impact on local families.' 
Footage shows emergency responders driving over the bridge, sirens blazing, to get to the scene before sunrise. The refinery has its own fire brigade and the Philadelphia Fire Department supported their operations.
Approximately 120 firefighters responded to the three-alarm fire. Firefighters had 51 apparatus on the scene.
The crude section at the Girard Point section of the refinery that was opened by Gulf Oil Corp in 1926, was closed down, intelligence provider Genscape said. 
The explosion originated from the 30,000 barrels per day alkylation unit that uses hydrofluoric acid, one of the deadliest chemicals in the refining business, a source familiar with plant operations said. 
Firefighters were cooling tanks surrounding the area of the 150-year-old plant but plumes of dark smoke covered most of the city.
The Platt Bridge and parts of Interstate 76 were briefly closed, diverting multiple SEPTA commuter bus routes in order to let first responders through. 
Philadelphia's Office of Emergency Management asked residents and workers at businesses east of the scene to remain indoors until further notice. The order was soon lifted and the Philly OEM said it was precautionary due to smoke.
The Philadelphia Fire Department warned locals to avoid the area near Passyunk and 26th Street due to amount of fire apparatus and first responders. 
The fire was somewhat contained around 5.30am, CBS Philly reported. By 7am there were still flames but they had decreased significantly.   
Philadelphia Energy Solutions spokeswoman Cherice Corely said authorities were still working to account for all plant staff. Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy reported that no one was missing.
'Refinery emergency response crews and the Philadelphia Fire Department are attempting to bring the fire under control. We are in the process of accounting for all personnel. There were no significant injuries,' a company spokesperson said.  
A worker complained of chest pains but was not hospitalized. 
Murphy says employees were far enough away from the initial explosion in the butane 'like you fill your lighter with' vat to not be injured. 
But the air quality was being monitored. 
The Philadelphia Department of Public Health said: 'Air Management Services was on-scene immediately and took air samples. Preliminary testing at the refinery, and in the community around, found no ambient carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons (combustibles), or hydrogen sulfides.'
Samples were taken and transported to the Air Management Services Lab and no findings pointed to any immediate danger in the surrounding community.
Philadelphia Department of Public Health tweeted: 'The City is NOT recommending evacuation or shelter-in-place.'
Remaining smoke in the area was being blown by 5mph winds towards Walt Whitman Bridge, Camden and Gloucester City. 
The PES refining complex is the largest of its kind on the US East Coast, according to its website, and processes 335,000 barrels of crude per day.
PES is a partnership between fuel distributor Sunoco, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer LP, and US-based investment firm The Carlyle Group, according to its website. 
The Atlantic Refining Co. opened at Point Breeze in 1870. The plant and the Girard Point refinery next to it were acquired between 1988 and 1994. 
It was the second fire at the complex, which employs around 1,000 people, in five weeks.  
A blaze erupted there on June 10 in the 50,000-barrels-per-day catalytic cracking unit but no injuries were reported.
News of the explosion caused gasoline futures traded on NYMEX to spike 4.8 percent.
The incident comes as the refiner is struggling financially after the Environmental Protection Agency approved sales of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol for the entire year-round as opposed to the previous restriction to eight months per year.
PES has been slashing worker benefits and scaling back capital projects to save cash as their costs increase due to the mandate. 
If the damage is significant, there will be questions as to whether the company has enough money to rebuild.
Mayor Jim Kenney planned to meet with the PES and city officials on Friday
'I thought we were all going to die': Workers tell of their terror when explosion in butane tank ripped through Philadelphia oil refinery sending fireball into the sky as 120 firefighters tackle massive blaze - but miraculously no one is seriously hurt 'I thought we were all going to die': Workers tell of their terror when explosion in butane tank ripped through Philadelphia oil refinery sending fireball into the sky as 120 firefighters tackle massive blaze - but miraculously no one is seriously hurt Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 10:42 Rating: 5

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