The massive explosion in Tianjin, China got me thinking about three other port explosions.
Texas City, 1947
The fire was burning so hot the water in the harbor was boiling. Eventually, the ship exploded with a yield of nearly 3 kilotons, sending super heated shrapnel into chemical plants, refineries, and warehouses along the waterfront. The shockwave was so strong it tore the wings of two planes flying over the scene. And the explosion set the High Flyer on fire. She exploded 15 hours later completing the devastation.
Port Chicago, CA, 1944
The men had no training as stevedores. Their officers had no experience running a port. When the longshoremens union learned how unsafely the port was operating they offered to train the men. The commanding officers curtly refused help because military operations are always secret. Besides, working safely might mean working slower and the only thing the officers cared about was speed, speed, speed.
Now we can finally get to the night of July 14. We are approaching midnight and the SS E. A. Bryan was already fully loaded with fuel oil. Its hold were holding various munitions including live incendiary bombs and shock sensitive depth charges. Something happened, there was a small explosion followed by a massive explosion. The only people in a position to know exactly what happened were vaporized in the explosion.
The E. A. Bryan was obliterated and two others ships sunk. Nearly 400 people died, 202 African-American. A Navy board of inquiry laid the blame of the dead folk. None of the unsafe practices were changed so three weeks later 258 workers decided they would stop working until safety protocols were in place.
Remember, these were black folk so the Navy called it a mutiny and threatened to execute the workers. Fifty men were charged and found guilty of mutiny.
Ports are dangerous places to live and work. Also, stay away from French cargo vessels as they have a nasty habit of blowing up.