SUPERIOR, Wis. (KMSP) - Officials say at least 13 people were injured in an explosion at an oil refinery in Superior, Wisconsin Thursday.
Husky Energy refinery manager Kollin Schade told reporters on Friday that six people were taken to the hospital and seven others were treated at the scene and released. Of the six people that were hospitalized, two – a Husky Energy employee and a contractor—were required to stay overnight, but they are expected to be released on Friday.
In a release, Essentia Health said its staff cared for 16 patients with injuries related to the refinery explosion and subsequent evacuation. One man who suffered a blast injury was admitted to St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth and is listed in good condition. Four other people were taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center and five were taken to St. Mary’s Hospital-Superior. They were all treated and released.
Essentia Health said St. Mary’s Medical Center Emergency staff cared for six additional patients on Thursday evening, but they suffered minor, “evacuation-related” injuries and were treated and released.
Superior Mayor Jim Paine says the focus is now on getting things back to normal in the city. Thursday’s explosion was one of the largest disasters the community has experienced, he said.
“Yesterday was a very scary day,” Paine said. “It had the potential to be absolutely catastrophic and the difference between those two days is the hard work, skilled professionalism of hundreds and hundreds of people, including the citizens of Superior and Duluth—really tens of thousands of people.”
All the fires at the refinery are now out, but crews are still watching for hotspots. The Superior fire chief said firefighters will be on rotating shifts at the refinery throughout Friday.
Around 10 a.m. on Thursday, an explosion ignited a fire inside a tank containing asphalt. Many people in the area said they felt the blast. The fire burned for more than eight hours before firefighters could extinguish the blaze. When the fire was fully involved, a thick plume of black smoke was visible from miles away.
More than 27,000 people were evacuated from the area surrounding the refinery as a precaution. Residents began returning to their homes on Friday morning.
Officials say the air and water is safe. Crews will remain in Superior to monitor the situation. Authorities still have no idea how the fire started and it could be a while before they know what went wrong.