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Texas City Disaster

The Texas City Disaster of April 16, 1947 started with the detonation of approximately 2300 tons of ammonium nitrate on board the French vessel Grandcamp in the port at Texas City, Texas. Approximately one and a quarter hours after a fire was reported on board the Grandcamp, the vessel detonated, causing great destruction and damage to the port. An adjacent ship, the High Flyer, contained an additional 1000 tons of ammonium nitrate. Although the High Flyer was severely damaged, its crew was busy attending to the emergency at hand. About 15 hours after the explosion aboard the Grandcamp, the High Flyer, while being towed out of the port after smoke started pouring out of its hold, also blew up.

The Texas City Disaster is generally considered the worst industrial accident in the USA's history. 405 dead were identified; 63 more were never identified. About 100 people were classified as missing, and never found.

Ammonium nitrate is not known for being capable of detonating without being mixed with a fuel. The disaster at Texas City may be due at least in part to the fact that the ammonium nitrate was destined for a tropical region, and "waterproofed" with paraffin or other solid hydrocarbon that rendered the mixture detonable under the peculiar conditions found in the conflagration.