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Police: 1 missing after warehouse explosion shakes Houston

HOUSTON — A worker was missing following a large explosion at a warehouse in Houston early Friday that heavily damaged nearby buildings and homes, left rubble scattered in the area and was felt miles away, authorities said.

The explosion happened about 4:30 a.m. at a building at Watson Grinding and Manufacturing, police said. The Houston Fire Department said one person was taken to a hospital because of the blast. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said Friday morning that one person was unaccounted for.

A fire burned at the site hours after the explosion and people were told to avoid the area. Aerial images showed rubble where one building apparently had stood and debris strewn about. Surrounding structures had portions of their walls and roofs heavily damaged.

Mark Brady, who lives near the blast site, told Houston TV station KPRC that the explosion “knocked us all out of bed.”

He said: “It busted out every window in our house. It busted everybody’s garage door in around here … and closer toward the explosion over here, it busted people’s roofs in and walls in."

The explosion shook other buildings, with reports on Twitter of a boom felt across the city. Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pena said there were no reports of hazardous air quality, based on monitoring done by a hazardous materials team.

A phone number for Watson Grinding was out of service when called by a reporter with The Associated Press on Friday morning.

Houston police tweeted that officers were blocking off streets, but no evacuation was ordered. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said first responders were checking on residents of nearby homes.

Several people told Houston TV station KHOU that the explosion was so loud, they thought a bomb had gone off or that a vehicle had crashed into their homes. At one man's home about 1/4 mile away, glass doors were shattered, ceilings were cracked, and the lid of his toilet was even torn off, the station reported.

Southeast Texas has seen a series of explosions in recent years up and down the Texas Gulf Coast, which is home to the highest concentration of oil refineries in the nation. Last July, an explosion at an ExxonMobil refinery in Baytown left more than dozen people with minor injuries and put nearby residents under a shelter-in-place advisory for three hours.

In December, two blasts in the coastal city of Port Neches shattered windows and ripped the doors from nearby homes.

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