Gas Explosion In Rural Washington State Forces Hundreds to Evacuate Town

On Monday in Plymouth, Washington, a natural gas explosion at a processing plant forced hundreds of residents to evacuate, but officials aren't sure what caused the fire yet. Flames shot 30 feet into the air and the smell of gas spread through the area after the explosion, the Los Angeles Times reported. Four workers are reported injured.

The blast occurred a little over two miles west of Plymouth, a small town in the southern part of the state. The county sheriff, Steve Keane, told the Times that "the blast sent debris and metal shrapnel into a 1.2 billion-cubic-feet liquefied petroleum storage tank that may have been half-full," and another news outlet described the cloud as "mushroom-shaped."

Seattle's Komo News said four employees were injured in the explosion, which occurred at about 8:20 a.m. this morning. Local resident Ashley Erickson, who lives across the river from the plant, told Northwest Cable News she could feel the explosion:

It shook my entire house. I wasn't sure what it was at first then looked across the river and saw the flames and smoke.

There were no reports of damage beyond the plant, officials said. Residents were evacuated across the Columbia River to Umatilla, Ore., to ensure their safety.

Williams, the energy company that owns the plant, also owned a natural gas compressor station in Pennsylvania where an explosion occurred in 2012.

The explosion took place as rescuers entered the ninth day of sifting through the rubble caused by a mudslide in the northern part of the state. The death toll from the mudslide reached at least 21 yesterday, and is expected to rise. 30 people remain missing.

On Sunday, The Seattle Times reported that officials used outdated data to allow logging above the slope where the mudslide occurred. Excessive logging can contribute to erosion and make slides more likely.