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Texas plant explosion: A deadly 1947 explosion in Texas City was also caused by ammonium nitrate

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(Read caption) Writer Bill Minutaglio is the author of 'City on Fire,' which explores the 1947 tragedy in Texas which was caused by ammonium nitrate.

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Just after World War II, Texas City – next to Galveston and not far from Houston – was the boom-iest of boom towns. The population was zooming skyward thanks to an influx of workers seeking jobs in the gritty worlds of oil, gas, metal, and chemicals.

"Everyone who lives here," a local priest said, "is a refugee steered to Texas City by a rising tide."

But the sea itself brought horror 66 years ago last week. A ship full of ammonium nitrate exploded in the Texas City port, setting off a disastrous chain reaction that left the city in ruins. Hundreds died, and thousands were wounded.

Ammonium nitrate appears to also be responsible for the deadly explosion last week at a fertilizer factory in West, Texas.

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