Federal authorities are investigating the cause of several explosions and a fire that rocked two warships under construction at Northrop Grumman’s Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula, MS.
No one was hurt in the accident early Thursday (Dec. 16), but the company evacuated about 2,000 workers from ships for the day.
"I was working on the flight deck of LPD 24 and on the back of the ship there was an explosion," electrician Jonathan Ladnier told WLOX-TV.
"And almost immediately afterwards, there was another explosion on the front of the ship. And when they evacuated everyone off the ship, there was a third explosion."
The fire was reported about 7:35 a.m. on the west bank near amphibious ships LPD 22 and LPD 24, San Antonio–class (LPD 17) vessels being built for the U.S. Navy’s amphibious-assault force, reports said.
“As a precautionary measure, approximately 2,000 craft employees assigned to work on the amphibious ships LPD 22 and LPD 24, located near the incident, were evacuated from the ships and sent home for the day,” Northrop Grumman said in a press release. “All craft work has been suspended on these ships for second and third shift today.”
It was not clear when work would resume, and no details were available about possible damage to the ships.
‘Excellent Emergency Response’
The fire began on the ground, not on a ship, the company said. Heavy smoke was visible throughout the area. Northrop Grumman’s emergency response teams fought the fire from offshore and contained and extinguished it in about 30 minutes, reports said. By the time the Pascagoula Fire Department arrived, it was not needed, the company said.
"We have an excellent emergency response team out here, and they responded almost immediately," Ladnier told WLOX.
The cause of the blast is under investigation by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration and Northrop Grumman. However, initial reports by workers honed in on the possibility of an electrical short, a broken acetylene gas line, or a combination of the two setting off a chain reaction.
About the San Antonio Class
The LPD 22, launched Nov. 23, is the Arlington, named to honor the Pentagon victims in the 9/11 attacks. The LPD 22, the San Diego, was launched in May and is scheduled to be delivered to its namesake port in 2011.
Northrop Grumman says the San Antonio-class ships are 684 feet long, 105 feet wide, and displace approximately 25,000 tons.
Their principal mission is to deploy the combat and support elements of Marine Expeditionary Units and Brigades.
The ship can carry up to 800 troops and have the capability of transporting and debarking air cushion (LCAC) or conventional landing craft and EFVs, augmented by helicopters or vertical take-off and landing aircraft such as the MV-22.
These ships will support amphibious assault, special operations or expeditionary warfare missions through the first half of the 21st Century, the company says.