The plant manufactured caprolactam, a chemical used to fabricate nylon, using cyclohexane, a colorless, flammable liquid that occurs naturally in crude oil, volcanic gases, and cigarette smoke. On May 29, plant employees discovered a cyclohexane leak, and the plant was shut down for repairs. Production started and stopped twice more before the plant finally went online again at 7 a.m. on June 1. Everything seemed to go smoothly until 4:35 p.m., when the repaired piping ruptured, producing a massive vapor cloud explosion that nearly leveled the entire installation, killing all 18 employees inside the plant’s control room and another 10 elsewhere in the plant.
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