Oil refinery explosion forces hospitals, schools to evacuate

An explosion and a series of fires at an oil refinery in Superior, Wis., Thursday are causing evacuations for several miles in every direction, affecting schools, hospitals and other essential services in the area as authorities attempt to get what they called an "evolving scene" under control. 

The evacuation order is still in effect. Mayor Paine will give an update at 10 a.m. Friday morning. As of 9:15 p.m., officials say a small fire at the refinery is still burning, but is under control. Earlier in the evening, crews successfully put out a different fire at the site, but now only a small fire in another section remains.

At least 10 patients were admitted to St. Mary's Hospital facilities--five in Superior and five more in Duluth--including one person with "serious blast injuries," according to a spokesperson for the hospital.

At a press conference several hours later, Superior Mayor Jim Paine insisted the evacuation was simply a precautionary measure and the air was not dangerous to breathe at that time. The order is in effect for a radius of three miles to the north, east and west of the plant, as well as 10 miles to the south.

As smoke continued to billow from Husky Energy, visible for dozens of miles away, Essentia Health announced it was closing all its Superior operations out of an "abundance of caution" and is transporting patients from St. Mary's Hospital there to another, larger St. Mary's Hospital in Duluth. At least 11 inpatients and one emergency room patient not injured by the fire were subsequently sent to Duluth, officials said.

The announcement followed Superior School District's decision to evacuate all students early and close schools Friday.