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Refinery explosion leaves injured, missing workers

ANACORTES, Wash. — An explosion and fire erupted at an oil refinery in Washington state early today, leaving four workers injured and three missing, officials said.

The Skagit County and Anacortes fire departments sent crews to battle the fire at the Tesoro Refinery in Anacortes, while Airlift Northwest told King-TV that three helicopters were dispatched.

Area residents, some five miles from the complex, called Washington broadcast stations after midnight with reports of an explosion, saying flames were being blown by high winds.

“My house shook, big time,” Lisa Wooding told KOMO-TV. “There were flames. First high, then low to the ground and broad.”

The blaze started in a catalytic unit for naphtha of the refinery, Tesoro human resources manager John McDarment told The Associated Press. He said refinery crews put out the fire within two hours. He didn’t know how exactly how long it had burned or how it started.

McDarment said four workers were taken to hospitals, but didn’t have any details on their conditions. He said a search was under way for the three missing workers.

KIRO-TV said Northwest Airlift reported that four critically injured patients were rushed by helicopter to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Activity around the complex had calmed down considerably by about 3 a.m. PDT.

Guards were turning reporters away from the gate and there was no apparent sign of the fire that had lit up the skies just 2½ hours earlier.

At least three of the refinery’s smokestacks were in operation, but many others were inactive.

The refinery, located about 70 miles north of Seattle on Puget Sound, can refine about 120,000 barrels of crude daily, primarily into gasoline, jet fuel and diesel to markets in Washington and Oregon, according to the company.

The Anacortes operation is one of seven the independent company operates in western states.

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