GA sugar refinery blast kills six

Plant had been the largest employer for community near Savannah.

Port Wentworth, GA | February 8, 2008

An explosion at the Imperial Sugar plant seriously injured a dozens.
Credit: Charlie Roy

Six employees were killed and more than 40 employees were injured Thursday night in an explosion at a sugar refinery near Savannah.

The blast at the Imperial Sugar plant in Port Wentworth, GA, was reported at about 7:30 PM when approximately 120 employees were working.

Local medical centers had been notified by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency to expect as many as 100 injuries but by midnight only about 40 employees were being treated at area hospitals aacording to Chief Michael Berkow of the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department. Although no deaths had been reported, six employees were thought to be missing.

Most of the injuries treated were burns. "We've seen people that have had burns to their hands all the way to about 80 to 90 percent of their body," according to Dr. Jay Goldstein of Memorial University Medical Center. Some of the most critically injured were flown by helicopter to a burn center in Augusta, GA.

Employees said the explosion occurred in a sugar silo room which is a room where sugar is stored before being bagged. The blast sent flames shooting more than 100-feet into the air and was responsible for a partial collapse of the plant.

Families of plant workers gathered at the nearby Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church as firefighters battled the flames.

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