Posted: Jun 1, 2012 11:39 AM by AP
PORT ALLEN, La. (AP) - Residents living near the Air Liquide Specialty Chemical plant have gone to court seeking damages as a result of the plant's May 21 explosion and chemical fire.
The Advocate reports a lawsuit filed May 23 in state court by a Baton Rouge law firm claims Air Liquide conducted negligent operations leading to the fire that forced residents out of their homes for two days while emergency responders brought the blaze under control and secured the site.
The suit states it is unknown how many people the fire directly affected, but the law firm claims it is representing more than 100 evacuees.
During the emergency, officials reported that more than 200 people were ordered by state authorities to flee their homes the morning of May 21 after hundreds of acetylene-filled cylinders caught fire, touching off several explosions and the fire that also forced the shutdown of a 14-mile stretch of U.S. 190 between Erwinville and Port Allen.
The lawsuit further asserts Air Liquide failed to adequately train and supervise its employees in "packaging, inspection, handling, storage and transportation" of acetylene cylinders, and neglected to have a plan in place to minimize the effects of a tank explosion.
The company allegedly failed to have a plan in place that would have adequately warned nearby residents of the dangers at the site and failed to provide safe methods for evacuation, the lawsuit says.
Residents asked the court to grant them "equitable" compensation from Air Liquide for past and future pain, suffering, emotional distress and medical expenses, as well as loss of income and property damage, according to the lawsuit.
Residents want reimbursements for evacuation costs and living expenses they incurred while they were barred from their homes on orders of law enforcement authorities enforcing a safety zone within a one-mile radius of the plant.
Mike Rosen, a spokesman for Air Liquide, declined Thursday to comment on the lawsuit, saying he wasn't aware any legal actions had been filed against the company.
He also said the cause of the fire remains under investigation.