Please note, this footage contains graphic material of deceased and severely injured persons. Viewer discretion advised. This newsreel captures the massive explosion that occurred in Texas City on April 16, 1947. Residents flee for safety as the port is engulfed in smoke and flame. Once the fires subside, first responders search the debris for survivors. Further inland, doctors and nurses treat the injured in pop-up medical clinics.
On the morning of April 16, 1947, a fire broke out within the hold of the SS Grandcamp while docked at a pier in Texas City. Crew were loading the vessel with ammonium nitrate—a chemical used in explosives and fertilizer—at the time. The nearly 2,300 tons of cargo detonated at 9:12 a.m., producing an initial blast that could be heard 150 miles away. Flaming debris caused a chain-reaction of additional fires and explosions on nearby ships as well as neighboring chemical storage facilities and oil refineries. The fires were not extinguished until April 18. In total, 581 people died and more than 3,500 were injured. The disaster prompted the first class-action lawsuit ever filed against the US government. Congress ultimately granted $17 million in compensation to 1,394 victims in 1955. The port was subsequently rebuilt to only handle oil products. The explosion remains the deadliest industrial accident in US history.