PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — We’re getting our first look inside a Philadelphia refinery the moment before explosions sparked a massive fire. People who live near the now-shuttered plant are growing increasingly concerned as new details about the June blast emerge.
The new video shows a direct view of the area where the explosion took place, and it shows the power of what happened in South Philly less than four months ago.
Living within blocks of Philadelphia Energy Solutions, Elson Xhoxhi vividly remembers the night three explosions rocked his home.
“You could walk to the refinery in 20 minutes,” Xhoxhi said. “The sky was red. It was very red and actually, the house shook.”
Federal investigators with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) determined a single corroded elbow pipe failed and led to the disaster.
“The piping component that failed has been installed in the 1970s and though parts of the piping circuit had been inspected as recently as 2018, the specific component that failed had not been inspected for corrosion in 45 years,” said CSB executive Dr. Kristen Kulinowski.
New video from inside the South Philly refinery shows the moments leading up to the first explosion.
Sixteen seconds after 4 a.m. on June 21, the elbow valve ruptured, releasing flammable fluid containing hydrofluoric acid, which hugged the ground.
It’s so powerful that the video on the surveillance camera is scrambled.
“How bad is it? We’re outside looking at the fireball but what are we breathing?” Xhoxhi said.
A second explosion happened at 4:19 a.m., followed by a third just three minutes later.
“Multiple explosions. It was a little bit scary,” Xhoxhi said.
Investigators say about 3,300 pounds of hydrofluoric acid was released into the atmosphere and was not contained by any water spray.
The report says there are no reports of any health impacts from that release.