Dozens injured in Imperial Sugar explosion - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Dozens injured in Imperial Sugar explosion

Photo courtesy of Michelle Brigdon. Photo courtesy of Michelle Brigdon.
Photo courtesy of Sia Maleki. Photo courtesy of Sia Maleki.
Photo courtesy of Charlie Roy. Photo courtesy of Charlie Roy.
Memorial University Medical Center. Memorial University Medical Center.
Photo courtesy of Joseph Spell. Photo courtesy of Joseph Spell.

The Savannah Fire Department and others from around the area responded to a massive explosion and fire at the Imperial Sugar refinery about 7:30 p.m. Thursday evening.

Police from the command center estimate about 41 have been injured in the explosion. Between eight and ten patients have been airlifted to the Augusta Burn Center and burn specialists are being brought in to Memorial from Augusta to help treat patients.

Emergency personnel set up triage operations at the site of the plant, as some of the wounded are airlifted to the hospital.

Capt. Matt Stanley with Savannah Fire says they believe at least six people were inside the building who are unaccounted for. A refinery official says over a hundred were on duty at the time of the explosion. John Sheptor, president and CEO of Imperial Sugar spoke at a news conference around 11:15 p.m.

"I was coincidentally in the refinery for employee meetings at the time of the explosion," Sheptor said. "We certainly are concerned about the employees and the families and are trying to provide what information as we can."

The explosion happened in a silo, starting the fire and causing a partial collapse in the four-story building. The cause of the explosion is unknown at this time.

Firefighters were being sent in to the refinery about four at a time looking for people who may be still trapped inside. There were also crews from the river, tugs and Coast Guard vessels helping to fight the fire from the water.

"The emergency response has been suburb," Sheptor added in the news conference. "Our people have been well treated and well cared for during the incident. Thank you for your concerns and I ask for your prayers and thoughts for everyone involved in this incident."

A portion of the Savannah River remains shut down as well as the Port of Savannah. Many container ships are backed up not able to come into port.

The Coast Guard closed access to the river from the Talmadge Bridge to the Hoolahan Bridge to all vessel traffic as helicopters and boat crews searched for anyone in the water. Officials say they have not found anyone so far.

As of 1:20 a.m., the fire was still burning.

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