TEXAS CITY — It was 67 years ago this month that the explosion of a ship docked in Texas City set off a chain of events that became known as the Texas City Disaster.
On the morning of April 16, 1947 the French ship S.S. Grandcamp’s cargo of ammonium nitrate caught fire.
Unknown to many was that the fire that sent a mesmerizing orange smoke into the air was a fatal accident waiting to happen.
As members of the all-volunteer Texas City Fire Department battled the blaze, hundreds of onlookers gathered at or near the docks to watch.
At 9:12 a.m., the ammonium nitrate exploded with a force of 1.134 kilotons of TNT.
It set fire to neighboring industrial plants, destroyed houses and business and killed hundreds. Several hours later, another cargo ship, the High Flyer, which was carrying ammonium nitrate and had caught fire after the Grandcamp explosion, also exploded.
That blast was the most devastating as hundreds of first responders and volunteers were killed.
About 600 people were estimated to have been killed — many never identified — and more than 5,000 injured.
Seven decades later, many of those who survived the disaster are still around. While their bodies are worn by the years, their memories of that day are as clear as if the explosion was yesterday.
On Saturday, The Daily News carries on a tradition of featuring survivors of the April 16, 1947, disaster in a group photo.
This year’s Texas City Disaster survivors photo marks the 10th year of the gathering.
This year’s photo also will pay tribute to the workers of the old Monsanto plant, which was ground zero of the explosion of Grandcamp.
The plant, which was where Eastman Chemicals is now, was laid in ruins and dozens of its employees killed or injured by the blast.
The first two rows of the survivors photo will be reserved for former Monsanto employees who worked at the plant when the explosions happened.
At a glance
WHAT: Texas City Disaster Survivors photo
WHEN: 10:30 a.m. Saturday; lineup starts at 10:15 a.m.
WHERE: Texas City Museum, 409 Sixth St., in Texas City
SPECIAL RECOGNITION: First two rows of seating reserved for those who worked at Monsanto when the explosion happened. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.
CALL: Texas City Museum, 409-229-1660